If You Were a Pie, What Pie Would You Be? Interview with Pietopia Pie Contest Founder Tricia Martin

Tricia Martin at Pietopia Pie Contest

Tricia Martin founded Pietopia Pie Contest, a conceptual art spin on the pie contest tradition, in Portland, Oregon in 2008. A holistic health coach and the founder of Food Loyal, she works with small groups and individuals through workshops and cooking classes to improve their lives, resolve concerns specific to them and their bodies, and to provide them with tools for a lifetime of balance. She is also a yoga instructor and baker with a background in urban planning and graphic design. When she isn’t teaching a class, she is writing for her blog, Eating Is Art, or busy in the kitchen trying new recipes.

Pie Topia Poster designed by Tricia Martin

Here are the Pietopia Pie Contest guidelines from last year:

What does it taste like to be unemployed, starting a new job, just married, divorced, a new homeowner, or desperately searching for housing? What kind of pie would describe the way you are feeling right now? Could you imagine your thoughts, concerns, or joys transformed into the All-American Pie? If so, take part in the Pietopia Pie Contest!

To participate, please submit your pie recipe and written explanation, including why you chose the recipe and how the taste of it relates to the current state of your life in under 300 words by July 15th, 2009. The project will culminate with an exhibition of the winners at the Portland Farmer’s Market Eastbank between 20th and Salmon on Thursday August 20, 2009. Each winning pie will receive a limited edition screen print reflecting the ideas in the written statement. Pies will be judged upon the creativity and innovativeness in ideas reflecting the ingredients used in the recipe.

Get as creative or as traditional as you want with your pies! Savory, sweet, fruit, cream, custard, meat, or vegan, do it up! The winners will bring their pie’s to the Eastbank Farmer’s Market (20th and Salmon SE) August 20, 2009 for some good old fashioned tasting (yes, that’s right, free pie tasting! yum!) and show off their baking skills. Come and taste what your community is feeling! Plus check out the amazing silk-screens that will be specially designed for each winning pie.

Sabrina Miller's Prize. Design by Tricia Martin

Sabrina Miller's Cranapple Pies

Pietopia Winner Sabrina Miller’s Statement:

Sabrina Miller–Unemployment may be {a} tart {cranberry,} but starting a new business is sweet {apple pie}

The ingredients in my pie are both tart and sweet . . . similar to the recent events in my life . . . and when combined, the result is unexpectedly sublime (and a force to be reckoned with, according to my husband)!

After completing a graduate degree in architecture two years ago, I found my first job in the field rather quickly. As the recession started to come on full steam this past winter, the design community was being hit hard and I began to wonder what I might do if I was laid off. I decided to pursue a long-time hobby, that of baking, and start a small business. In February I was laid off from a local architecture firm, due to a reduction in work, and I devoted my full attention to my new venture.

I have selected this cranberry apple pie as it resembles my life as I look to create something enjoyable from these rough times and move forward.

Cranberries can test a baker’s skills when making dessert due to their tartness. They often pose a challenge and adjustments need to be made when they are incorporated. Unemployment can threaten one’s stability and hopes for the future. It too causes a need for adjustment, but its incorporation may also make way for new beginnings.

Just as a baker may struggle to incorporate cranberries in their dish, I am taking my unemployment as a new beginning, a challenge I can and will face. As the cranberries gave me an opportunity to make my apple pie unique, my unemployment is giving me an opportunity to bring happiness to people through my baked goods.

I look forward to the sweet future in my baking business just as I hope others enjoy the sweetness in my pie!

For the recipe and to see more winning entries, click here.


Gina: What are the origins of Pietopia?

Tricia: The idea of Pietopia manifested from my deep love and interest in community, connection, communication, design, and the senses. Everybody eats, so I started thinking about how this could be translated. Food and eating are our common denominator and a way for people to communicate and connect through, so I began searching out new ways to apply design-thinking and problem solving to my life passions and Pietopia became the brainchild. I chose to use pies because of their timeless appeal to the seasons, cross generations, and the local culture. I am also interested in exploring the ancient correlation between taste and feeling. The goal of Pietopia is to incite communication, connection, and communing as the interweaving entities within the fabric of our daily lives; as well as how the senses of taste and smell and the feelings/memories they can evoke, spearhead this process, and open doors for understanding. Pietopia seeks to channel our connection with food as a way to communicate, ultimately discovering what a city’s quality of life truly is.

Gina: What is the structure of your pie contest?

Tricia: There are two panels of judges. The entries go through a first round of judging by food writers. Their top choices are relayed to the bakers’ panel, which determines whether the pie matches the flavors described in the baker’s story and life. I then hand off the winners to a group of artists who reinterpret their story into a visual silk-screened poster. The poster is an original piece of art and along with a few other wonderful goodies, are the prizes for the winners. The whole process starts in mid-May and culminates at the Pietopia tasting, traditionally held at a farmers market in August.

Gina: What does it take to be a pie judge? Are there personality traits or special skills required for the position?

Tricia: The criteria for the judges has evolved with the growth of Pietopia. The first year, I asked a few of my foodie friends who were also avid readers and/or had some background in writing to read through the entries and pick their top three. Now, I seek out judges who are either involved in the food writing world directly (for the food-writer panel) and professional pastry chefs/bakers (for the baking panel).


Gina: What criteria do you consider in evaluating pie (and conceptual art literary pie)?

Tricia: There are actually two different sets of criteria entrants have to go through. The first is the written part: how well can you describe the taste of your life, in a pie? (For example, I am just waiting for a Ramen Noodle pie with a poignent description of that persons hardships, or a Ginger Bourbon Pecan pie describing the grandeur and complication in someone’s life.) The second criteria is the actual flavor. It’s up to the baker judges discretion to really meditate on the flavors in this pie, read and re-read that entrants story, and taste it some more to see if the two actually correlate, or if there is a disconnect or missing link.

Gina: Is there a proper technique to tasting pie?

Tricia: In Pietopia’s case, yes. Food says a lot. In fact, everything we eat has it’s own story. We use food to communicate with each other every day (ex: birthday cakes, condolence casseroles, welcome cookies, I-Love-You chocolates, etc…). Pietopia is calling our food-as-communication tradition out. So as you taste these pies, you are aware of someone else’s life using taste (of the pie itself), smell (of the pie, of the people around you), sound (as you hear the winners story or talk to them directly), sight (of the visual art work, the pie, and the winner themselves), and touch (the texture of the pie, the warm breeze, brushing up against people as you try to get seconds…). And the more a person is engaged in something by using all of their senses, the more likely they are to be receptive and possibly even understand a differing perspective better.

Gina: What qualities make the difference between a good pie and a great pie?

Tricia: Freshness.

Gina: What is your fondest pie memory?

Tricia: Making my first pie without using measurements, just relying on taste and touch. And it turned out to be one of the best pies I’ve ever made.

Gina: What is your favorite kind of pie?

Tricia: Peach pie in August.

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

Tricia: A pie called Shoe-fly-don’t-bother-me-pie that involved Zoloft (the anti-depressant) as an ingredient.

Gina: Portland, Oregon seems to be Pie Nirvana. Why is that?

Tricia: It must be the collective unconscious!

Gina: What are your plans for Pietopia?

Tricia: I’d like to do Pietopia in cities across the country, to get a country-wide perspective on what the quality of life tastes like in individual cities. It would be incredible!

Gina: Why does pie matter today?

Tricia: Pie has become a symbol of comfort and community. Those are two things people are desperately trying to get back to and find a balance in their own lives with. I don’t think pie ever didn’t matter, but in today’s busy and tech-heavy world, it’s come to represent our sense of nostalgia for bygone days.

5 Responses to If You Were a Pie, What Pie Would You Be? Interview with Pietopia Pie Contest Founder Tricia Martin

  1. […] has recently done interviews with Portland-based Beth Howard of theworldneedsmorepie.com, and Tricia Martin, the founder of Portland’s “Pietopia” […]

  2. Mom says:

    I love what you are doing with food, taste, feelings, sensation and life! This is brilliant! I am so pleased with how happy this makes you to be working so hard on what you love and to see it flourish and grow. You must be thrilled to finally see this take off!
    Love, Mom

  3. Gina Hyams says:

    Hi Tricia’s Mom. Thanks for your comment.

  4. […] me about Pietopia. Below are a few questions from the interview and you can read it in its entirety here. What are the origins of Pietopia? The idea of Pietopia manifested from my deep love and interest […]

  5. Tricia says:

    Thanks, Gina for the great interview! And thanks Mom, for you lovely comment :). Cheers to pie!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Instagram
Copyright © Gina Hyams