Monthly Archives: March 2010

Pie Contest Sign

LaFayette Apple Festival Pie Contest Sign

The Mystery of Neil Diamond's "Porcupine Pie"

Googling the phrase “porcupine pie recipe” leads to porn, but was that what Neil Diamond was thinking when he wrote Porcupine Pie 40 years ago? He seems to be speaking in metaphor or code. Perhaps it’s about a surreal erotic dream?  I don’t know, but it’s certainly a catchy tune.

Neil Diamond "Hot August Night" (1972)

“Porcupine Pie”

(words and music by Neil Diamond)

Porcupine pie, porcupine pie, porcupine pie,

Vanilla soup, a double scoop please.

No, maybe I want, maybe I won’t, maybe I will.

The titti fruit, with fruity blue cheese.

Ah, but porcupine pie, porcupine pie, porcupine pie,

Don’t let it get on your jeans, I know it sounds a little strange,

but you got to eat it with gloves–or your hands will turn green.

Ah, but porcupine pie, porcupine pie, porcupine pie,

It weaves its way through my dreams,

And I do believe I’m gonna have one and leave enough room for dessert,

chicken ripple ice cream.

Patty Griffin Sings "Making Pies"

Vintage Children's Books about Pie

Stumbled on these wonderful-looking titles by googling “vintage children’s books pie” in search of a new Twitter wallpaper background image.

Pickle-Chiffon Pie by Jolly Roger Bradfield, circa 1960-something, reissued by Purple House Press.

The Blueberry Pie Elf by Jane Thayer, illustrated by Seymour Fleishman. Originally published by William Morrow and Company in 1959 and reissued by Purple House Press.

A Apple Pie by Kate Greenaway, published by George Routledge and Sons, 1886 and reprinted by Frederick Warne (found via Vintage Kids’ Books My Kid Loves Blog).

Mud Pies and Other Recipes: A Cookbook for Dolls by Marjorie Winslow, illustrated by Erik Blevad. Originally published by Macmillan in 1961 and reprinted by NYR Children’s Collection  (hardcover) and Walker Books for Young Readers (paperback).

Via Vintage Childrens Books Set on Flickr (Google’s not immediately revealing publishing details — if anybody knows, please let me know.)

The Illustrated Treasury of Children’s Literature published by Dutton in 1955

(Thanks to Amy Worley for reminding me of “The Three Little Kittens” and to Jen Bekman for running to her bookshelf to identify the illustration!)

The Three Little Kittens

by Mother Goose

Three little kittens lost their mittens

And they began to cry,
”O, mother dear,

We very much fear

That we have lost our mittens.”

“Lost your mittens!
You naughty kittens!
Then you shall have no pie.”

“Mee-ow, mee-ow, mee-ow.”
”No, you shall have no pie.”

“Mee-ow, mee-ow, mee-ow.”

The three little kittens found their mittens,

And they began to cry,
”O, mother dear,

See here, see here!

See! we have found our mittens.”

“Put on your mittens,
You little kittens,
And you may have some pie.”

“Purr, purr, purr,
Oh, let us have the pie.

Purr, purr, purr.”

The three little kittens put on their mittens,

And soon ate up the pie;
”O, mother dear,

We very much fear

That we have soiled our mittens.”

“Soiled your mittens!
You naughty kittens!”

Then they began to sigh,

“Mee-ow, mee-ow, mee-ow.”

The three little kittens washed their mittens,

And hung them out to dry;
”O, mother dear,

Do you not hear,

That we have washed our mittens?”

“Washed your mittens!
Good little kittens!
But I smell a rat close by!”

“Hush, hush! Mee-ow, mee-ow! 
We smell a rat close by!

Mee-ow, mee-ow, mee-ow!”

Interview with Pie Evangelist Beth Howard

Beth Howard: Pie Baker, Writer, TV Producer, Host

Before becoming known as a pie evangelist, Beth Howard had a long career as a journalist (Shape, Elle, etc.), PR executive (from Hyatt Hotels to “Beverly Hills, 90210”), and web producer (2002 Olympics,, Quokka Sports). Needing a break from the long hours behind her computer, Beth quit a six-figure job to spend a year on a pie-baking sabbatical in Malibu, California, where she baked pies for the stars. Today, she blends her pie passion with her media background, blogging about the pie life, writing a pie memoir, teaching pie skills through her pie party business, and developing a pie TV series, all under the name The World Needs More Pie.

TV Series Synopsis

Pie is comfort. Pie builds community. Pie heals. Pie can change the world. That is what Beth Howard, journalist, blogger, and former pie baker to the stars in Malibu, always believed. But when her 43-year-old husband dies suddenly and unexpectedly, she must put her theory to a personal test. As part of her grieving process she packs up the RV her husband left behind and hits the American highways and byways in search of the real healing powers of pie. During Beth’s journey, documented in the forthcoming TV series “The World Needs More Pie,” she interviews an eclectic array of people – pie bakers, shop owners, apple growers, social activists, philanthropists, cartoonists, song writers, 92-year-old grandmothers, and even a pie-delivering bike messenger – people who make the world a happier place, and who help Beth ease her grief, all because of an iconic American dessert.  “The World Needs More Pie” is a docu-reality series of one-hour episodes co-produced by Emmy Award-winning producer/cameraperson Janice Molinari and co-produced and hosted by Beth Howard.


Gina: Can you talk about how focusing on pie has helped you cope with the loss of your husband?

Beth: A mentor of mine always preaches, ‘If you’re feeling blue do something nice for others.  I interpret ‘nice’ to mean ‘bake pies and give them away.’ Since my husband died unexpectedly seven months ago, I have been feeling verrrrrrrry blue and as a result I have been baking a lot of pie lately and giving it all away. In fact, on National Pie Day (January 23, 2010), I baked 50 pies and handed free slices out to strangers on the streets of LA. That’s 400 slices of pie. That made me feel a little better.  At least for that day.  If only every day could be National Pie Day! But also, Marcus loved my pie and he was very supportive of me writing my pie memoir. He was reading my manuscript up until the day he died. Knowing that he wanted to see me get this book published keeps me going.

Gina: Why do you love pie?

Beth: Why pie? I am still asking myself this. I love many baked goods – brownies, chocolate chip cookies, carrot cake – but there is something truly special about pie. I think it has something to do with a nostalgia that goes way beyond our parents and grandparents. Maybe because pie’s origins go way back to the Egyptians and Romans it’s baked deep in our DNA.

Gina: What is your fondest pie memory?

Beth: Age 8, Banana Cream Pie, The Canteen Lunch in the Alley, Ottumwa, Iowa. I was with my dad and four siblings. My dad was in charge because my mom was in the hospital.  We all sat around a horseshoe shaped counter on bar stools. We each got our own whole heaping-high piece of pie. And that was after eating Maid-Rite hamburgers. Banana Cream is my dad’s favorite pie by far. My mom got my dad to marry her because she made him of this pie. So I wouldn’t have been born if not for banana cream pie. Thus, all my memories of banana cream are fond ones. But The Canteen Lunch in the Alley was where my pie initiation began. And, by the way, the place is still there – check it out!

Gina: What is your favorite kind of pie?

Beth: My favorite pie is apple crumble. And blueberry. And blackberry. And peach.  And…you get the idea.

Gina: What is the oddest pie you’ve made, seen, or heard about?

Beth: Stargazy pie from England, where whole fish are laid under the top crust with their heads poking out, eyes looking up toward the stars.  Truly disturbing. There’s a pic in my blog post from when I heard about it, though never actually saw or ate one.

Gina: Have you ever participated in or judged a pie contest? Please tell me about your experiences. Do you have any competition tips?

Beth: No, I’ve never judged a contest of any kind, which makes me especially  nervous to go straight to the National Pie Championships as a novice judge! I feel sorry for the contestants who get me for a judge because not only do I have a hard time making decisions (I’m a Gemini), I am not terribly discriminating when it comes to pie because, basically, I like almost any pie I eat!

Gina: What criteria should pie judges consider? Is there a proper technique to tasting pie?

Beth: Pie should look (and taste) like it’s made with love. You can always tell. Pie should reflect life; it should be slightly imperfect – it should look homemade. It shouldn’t be too fancy, no manicured or coiffed crusts, it’s not a French pastry going to a ball; it’s hardy American fare so the crust should look a little, shall we say, rough around the edges. Proper tasting technique is this: always, always, always chew with your mouth closed. And use a napkin to wipe your mouth. Please.

Gina: What is the secret to a perfect crust?

Beth: Butter. End of discussion. Okay, that and do not, I repeat, DO NOT overwork the dough!

Gina: Do you think great bakers are born rather than made? Can anybody learn to make pie? What personality traits make for the best pie bakers?

Beth: Anyone can learn to make pie. However, in my teaching experience, I’ve learned that pie making is well suited to people who are not perfectionists, not overachievers, not Type-A.  (These types almost always overwork their dough.)  Pie making is good for free spirited, creative types who are not afraid to ignore recipes, break rules, improvise, and who are open to experimentation. Overall, I see pie making as an equal-opportunity, all-access, all-age activity.

Gina: Why does pie matter today?

Beth: Pie makes people happy, happy people want to do nice things for others, when everyone is doing nice things for each other all the time there can be no war, and therefore pie can save the world.

Interview with American Pie Council Executive Director Linda Hoskins

American Pie Council Executive Director Linda Hoskins

I am excited to be a pie judge at the APC Crisco® National Pie Championships®  coming up April 23-25 at the Omni Championsgate in Orlando, Florida. Below is an interview with American Pie Council Executive Director Linda Hoskins about the event.

Gina: What does the American Pie Council (APC) do and how long has it been around?

Linda: It promotes year-round enjoyment and consumption of pie.  It’s been around since 1983.

Gina: How long have you been executive director of the organization? What sort of background did you have to qualify for the post?

Linda: I’ve been executive director since 1999.  My background is not really a baking background, but rather a fundraising, event planning background.  Although I’ve now become somewhat of a baker and I really love it.

Gina: How many entries do you anticipate for the APC Crisco® National Pie Championships® this year?

Linda: Including commercial, amateur, professional, and junior chefs, I anticipate around 850 entries.

Gina: How many pie judges will there be?

Linda: Right now we have 188 judges.

Gina: Are there any celebrity judges?

Linda: Not yet!

Gina: What will I be judging?

Linda: You’ll find out on Friday.  We actually don’t figure any of that out until we have all of the entries.

Gina: Do you have any tips for pie judging?

Linda: Don’t eat too much of one pie, even if you love it, they’ll be plenty more that you love!!

Gina: Is there a proper way to taste pie?

Linda: We like to taste the entire experience on the first taste, a little crust, topping and filling, then we go on to critique the components individually.

Gina: How many people do you anticipate will attend the Great American Pie Festival?

Linda: 25,000

Gina: What sort of things and activities will one find at the festival?

Linda: Pie making, pie eating, pie decorating, pie making demonstrations, lots of kids activities, and more pie eating.

Gina: What is the oddest pie you’ve made, seen, or heard about?

Linda: Avocado pie, Vidallia onion pie, watermelon pie.

Gina: Why do you think pie matters today?

Linda: Not only is it yummy, and makes people feel good, it’s about the traditions handed down from generation to generation.

Nothing Says Spring Like Daffodil Cake

Daffodil Cake Ad (circa 1940)

Berkshire Spring Sky Photograph by Catherine Niles

Photo by Cathy Niles

Catherine Niles of Salisbury, Connecticut posted this wonderful image on her  Facebook Daily Photo Journal. It sums up how I feel about this gorgeous spring day and I’m pleased to share it here with her permission. Cathy doesn’t have a website yet, but you can reach her at cenile [at]

To see Cathy’s fall foliage photos from a couple of  years ago, click here.

After the Windstorm: Mess o' Woods

There was a wild windstorm last night. Fortunately, we still have power and no trees fell near the house, but there’s horizontal mayhem in our woods.

Rite of Spring

I am not so deluded as to think winter is actually over in the Berkshires, but Goose is sure happy to see the mud puddles again.

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