Monday, January 10, 2011

A Bribe from a Pie Visionary

I used to like to travel for business. But, after more years than I'd like to admit, the novelty has worn off. You could blame it on so many things - the seismic changes in air travel security, the weather, or the horrendous in-flight dining choices billed as "food."

Sadly, I am no George Clooney.

Sometimes, I need a little push to get me to a meeting in another city. Here's a recent phone conversation with my friend and colleague Miss Tera, who is based in Chicago.

Miss Tera: (Brightly) We’d love to have you at our meeting next Friday!

TW: (Peevishly) Chicago in January? It’s freezing. Is that the best you can do? If you were suggesting Miami, we might have some room for negotiating.

Miss Tera: (Undeterred) How about I bake you a pie? Would that help?

TW: (Brief Silence, Then Rapid Improvement in Attitude) Pie? What kind of pie?

Miss Tera: (Sweetly) What kind do you want?

TW: (Checking Flight Availability) You take requests? Deal!

Yes. I can be bribed. Especially with pastry. But, there is a difference between a bribe, and an embarrassment of riches. I arrive in the Windy City and learn that Miss Tera has baked me not one, but THREE pies. And, she baked all of them on a weeknight. For that reason alone, she qualifies as the Wonder Woman of pie.

Miss Tera is also a bit of a soothsayer when it comes to pie. You may have read in the New York Times that pie is the next big thing. However, Miss Tera predicted the big pie trend right here, more than two years ago.

She serves up the pie at a lunchtime sampling (yes, I ate pie as the main course for lunch) and we indulge in the sweet luxury of Joyce Carol's Black and Blue Pie, Sister Chestermae Hayes's Apple Butter Pie and Aunt Betty Jean's Lemon Pie, all from the book “Sweety Pies” by Patty Pinner, “An Uncommon Collection of Womanish Observations with Pie.” We’re joined by Liz, The Crazy Cook who gave Miss Tera the cookbook as a holiday gift. The cookbook has already been broken in, as there are berry stains splattered across the pages.

The “black and blue” pie is a luscious concoction of blackberries and blueberries frozen from the summer farmer’s markets, the tart lemon pie has a crackling good sugar top, almost like crème brulee, and the apple butter pie is a velvety, old-fashioned classic.

As we bask in the pie afterglow, Miss Tera shares her thoughts on the power of pie. She brushes off my assertion that she is a pie visionary and modestly refers to her razor-sharp prediction of 2008 as “pie in the sky thinking.”
But, I still want to know, what is it about pie?
“Hominess,” says Miss Tera, “that’s what it is about pie. It’s the epitome of homemade and it actually isn’t that hard.”
So says the woman who made three pies in one night. What about us average mortals? Miss Tera recommends composing a detailed shopping list, reading the recipe thoroughly and planning ahead.
“The custard pies are the easiest. You just mix up the filling, dump it into the pie shell, and bake it. But, I don’t think people appreciate them any less.”
She says pie has a magic all its own. “When you serve people pie, it’s different than when you’re serving them a cupcake. It’s different because it’s homier, and it’s got maybe a little more love baked into it somehow.”
Miss Tera tends to favor berry pies. “Blueberry pie is always my favorite, and I always put a little extra lemon and lemon zest into it. When you chew into that zest, there’s a little bit of punch to it. I love using farmer’s market blueberries. I live really close to Michigan, so we’re always getting really good Michigan blueberries, and what I don’t use I freeze.”
I ask what inspired this love affair with pie. “My Grandma Lodgson was a wonderful pie baker,” says Miss Tera. “My memory of her was that she baked pies every week. I distinctly remember being with her when she was baking pies. She made pie from blackberries in her garden and all sorts of pies.”
Miss Tera says her grandmother is still with her in the kitchen. “I have her rolling pin, so it’s very evocative for me to bake a pie because it’s all about my Grandma Lodgson.”
What happens next for pie? “I hope that someone invents a really great pie carrier, because they can be difficult to transport. It’s not like a cupcake,” says Miss Tera. She predicts that we will see a flurry of pie accoutrements, similar to what came with the cupcake revolution, as well as a lot of pie restaurants opening up.
As for Miss Tera, she plans to keep focused on the more spiritual aspects of the craft. “I just hope to keep baking Grandma’s pies, keep enjoying the pie and keep the pie love alive.”

Most business experts say a productive meeting starts with a well-crafted agenda. I disagree. Good meetings begin with pie. Really excellent meetings start with three pies baked by a remarkable friend.

©2011 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved


tasteofbeirut said...

After reading this post, I suddenly felt the urge of baking one of 'em pies. It is a wonderful creation when it is made from scratch and the filling is first-rate, like a great peach pie or cherry pie. It is just that i am going to have to figure out how to make them tasty and not use white sugar! Ha! there's a challenge.

Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

I too am easily bribed by food. As you say, Chicago is awfully cold and windy in wintertime so I'm so glad to hear that the pies were worth the trip.

I'll keep my eye out for the new pie accouterments. It's so cool to have a heads up on a trend.

Kathy said...

Pie for lunch? Lemon pie for breakfast sounds good to me. My mouth is watering.

Julia said...

mmm.... pie! I could easily be bribed by pies, too :)

Petsi pies opened in Cambridge a few years ago bucking the whole cupcake trend. She's been wildly successful, but recently started serving cupcakes which I don't think are as good.

I've seen pie carriers before... though it looks like this one needs a better handle.

Barbara said...

I don't think even three pies would be enough incentive to visit Chicago in the winter. However, a promise to visit three restaurants (chosen by me) there might. :)

I could swear I've seen pie carriers someplace. Be worth a Google.

Anonymous said...

Well, Tera is my daughter and I have been to Chicago many times.

NEVER a piece of pie yet!

Maybe she could make her Grandma Miller's sugar pie when I visit next?

House do you bake one of those for a diabetic?

Deana Sidney said...

Tupperware makes one... although I've seen some dandy antiques that are tall 3-tiered numbered with wire mesh and a handle... perfect for a church social or your friend. I agree about pie... it just makes the house smell like a home and when there is fruit... well it's good for you too. Wonderful story and a great lady!!

veron said...

I do wish pie is the next big thing because I love pie more than cake. In fact I bought some disposable tins to see how the pie crust would turn out and maybe I can just sell apple pies. :)

Diana's Cocina said...

I'm with you ~ A really excellent meetings start with three pies baked by a remarkable friend ~ I love it ~ I could handle Chicago anytime!

Zany said...

Crap. Looks like I need to learn how to make pies.

Mary Bergfeld said...

I would have enjoyed a sliver (ignore the background laughter) of each and done whatever the cook wanted, including voting twice. Does she travel:-). We are pie people here in Oregon and I'll share my kitchen with her any day. I hope you have a great evening. Blessings...Mary

~~louise~~ said...

Bribery Pie, now there's a catchy title for a pie, or two, or three...

Off the top of my head, I do believe January 23rd is National Pie Day. I'd love to see pie as the next "in" thing. I can handle a pie bake every once in a while as long as Mrs. Smith keeps providing those frozen pie crusts.

I sent my grandmother's rolling pin to Idaho a long time ago. I'm so bad at pie baking but, I keep trying...

Thanks for sharing, T.W.

Tera said...

Louise is right! January 23 is National Pie Day, which is a Sunday -- the perfect day to bake a pie. So what do you say? Let's tip the trend and make it official. Let's bake pie!

Velva said...

Pie does have a magic all of its own. It's amazing that the mere mention of pie, immediately brings on a feeling of comfort.

It is good to know that you can be bribed with food :-)


Fresh Local and Best said...

I think there is something quite American about pies. I don't often see them baked the way we do in America. For instance, I haven't heard of pumpkin, apple or blueberry pies anywhere else, but they grace our tables on special holidays, picnics and other gatherings.

I called it quits years ago because traveling half of the month was too much. You're a strong man to tolerate all of those demands.

Julia said...

Ha! Looks like you're ahead of your time (by a week). Now the flurry of posts has begun saying pie is the next big thing. Just saw one on Sippity Sup with a link to an LA Times article