Give a Piece a Chance
While we Americans like to think we invented pie, it did not originate with the pilgrims. Though we agree, it was an inspired notion to bake pie as a peace offering and create a holiday centered around it! We love Thanksgiving. Pie, however, has been around since medieval times with its history first documented in Egypt, and the first pie recipe recorded in Greece. Pie originated as a sort of Tupperware of its time, the dough an inedible wrapper to preserve and transport meat. Mayflower passengers, practical travelers who recognized the hardiness (and heartiness) of the dish, brought pie to America, where recipes evolved and multiplied as quickly as the population of the new nation. Today’s pie crust is flaky, buttery and melts in your mouth, with myriad fillings — berries, nuts, veggies, eggs, just about anything that can fit in a pie plate. Pie is accessible, affordable, all-encompassing. Pie is meant for sharing. Pie connects people. Pie knows no cultural or political boundaries. Pie makes people happy. And happy people make the world a better place. That’s why the world needs more pie.
Here’s my humble film about my World Piece journey. It’s like homemade pie, it’s not perfect but it’s made with love.
Healing the World with Pie
In 2001, at the height of the dot com boom, Beth Howard quit a lucrative web producing job to bake pies at a gourmet deli in Malibu, California. While she enjoyed her newfound status as “pie baker to the stars” she couldn’t pay her rent on her baker’s salary. Still, she recognized how happy pie made people — watching Robert Downey Jr. devour her apple pie was proof enough! — and Howard knew there was no turning back. She began blogging about how pie can make the world a better place, which led to writing books about it. Her first book, “Making Piece: A Memoir of Love, Loss and Pie” is the story of how pie helped her heal from the death of her 43-year-old husband. Her cookbook, “Ms. American Pie,” is filled with pie recipes and stories about how she believes pie can comfort, build community, and even seduce. She’s given a TEDx talk on pie. Howard was the last resident to live in the American Gothic House in Eldon, Iowa, where from 2010 to 2014, she ran the Pitchfork Pie Stand. In 2015, she circled the globe on her World Piece mission, making pie to promote cultural tolerance. Howard’s story has been featured on CBS This Morning, NPR, CNN, and many other media outlets. She is currently living on a farm in Southeast Iowa where she continues to blog and write books while plotting her next pie adventure.
Beth’s Latest Book is Out!
Hausfrau Honeymoon: Love, Language, and Other Misadventures in Germany is a travel memoir that reads like a love story as Howard takes a lover’s leap — straight into a piranha-filled pool.
Beth’s pie books are available in print, digital, and audio formats
Making Piece: A Memoir of Love, Loss and Pie, is about Beth’s journey through grief after losing her husband and how it led her to a new life in the American Gothic House. It was published by Harlequin Nonfiction in 2012 and received an unprecedented amount of publicity including CBS This Morning, the front page of the LA Times, a 4-page feature in Real Simple, the cover of Country Woman, and multiple interviews on NPR. One of Beth’s proudest moments was landing at #1 on a bestseller list, beating out not one but two of David Sedaris’ titles. Read an excerpt here.
Ms. American Pie: Buttery Good Pie Recipes and Bold Tales from the American Gothic House, with 80 recipes, color photos, and Beth’s funny, heartfelt essays, was released by Race Point Publishing on April 2014. It went into its second printing after just 2 weeks and reached #1 on several bestseller lists.
And stay tuned for yet another one… Beth is currently working on a memoir about her four years living in the American Gothic House (with snakes, stalkers, and “Gladys Kravitz” for a neighbor, all while running the Pitchfork Pie Stand.) She tells the story of what it was really like living behind the lace curtain of the famous Gothic window. To sum it up: “A pie baker, her two terriers and her RV move into a rural Iowa tourist attraction and all hell breaks loose.”
Watch Beth’s TEDxDes Moines talk online
T-shirts, tote bags and aprons are still for sale on my Cafe Press store page. Several pie slogans (and styles) to choose from.
- The World Needs More Pie: Give a piece a chance
- Make Your Own D*mn Pie
- World Piece
Looking for the Pitchfork Pie Stand at the American Gothic House?
Sorry we’re closed! Beth moved out of the American Gothic House and it is no longer rented as a private residence. The good news it that it’s now open to the public for tours. Go to this page to learn more.
Didn’t make it to the pie stand? Make your own pie using the easy recipes from Beth’s cookbook, “MS. AMERICAN PIE.”
WORLD PIECE: Making pie around the world to promote cultural tolerance, Summer 2015
Auckland, New Zealand
Germany, Switzerland, Hungary
Read about how Beth and others are changing the world through food. And listen to her interview on Iowa Public Radio upon returning from her trip. Or watch the TV interview and pie-making demo on Fairfield’s Great Taste.
Pie for Newtown: Ease the Grief
From Dec. 18 to 21, 2012, our team of volunteer pie makers & pie servers from New Jersey, New York, Georgia, Illinois and Iowa, handed out 240 pies in Newtown, Connecticut, giving slices and whole pies to funeral receptions, grieving families and town residents after the tragic shooting. We taught pie making to students at the high school and to kids of Sandy Hook, all supported by your generous donations for RV gas and pie ingredients. To help with the ongoing grieving process, Beth returned to Newtown March 4 to 9, 2013, to teach more pie classes to the community and give a talk at the C.H. Booth Library. Articles about our experiences can be found on the NEWS page on this site. Follow our continuing compassion-filled journey on Facebook. For ongoing support to Newtown grief counseling, please donate directly to the Newtown Parent Connection.
Shaker Lemon Pie Recipe
This is just one of the many mouth-watering recipes in my cookbook, “Ms. American Pie.” But not only is it GOOD, it’s as EASY to make as you know what.
2 large lemons (Meyer lemons if you can find them, but works with any kind)
2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 eggs (beaten)
3 tablespoons flour
Dough for one double-crust pie (crust recipe below)
Wash and dry whole lemons. Using a mandoline (serrated knife works too), slice lemons paper thin into a large bowl. (Remove seeds.) Stir in sugar, cover, and set aside at room temperature overnight.
Mix lemon-sugar mixture with beaten eggs, salt and flour. Pour in pie shell. Cover with top crust, brush with beaten egg, poke with vent holes.
Bake at 425°F. for 20 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 375°F. and bake for 25 to 30 minutes more.
BASIC PIE CRUST
2-1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup Crisco
Dash of salt
Ice water (fill one cup but use only enough to moisten dough)
In a deep bowl, work the butter and shortening into the flour with your hands until you see marble-sized lumps form. Add ice water a little at a time, sort of “fluffing” the flour. When the dough feels moistened enough do a “squeeze test” and when it holds together you’re done. Do not overwork the dough! It takes very little time and you’ll be tempted to keep touching it, but don’t! Now divide the dough in two, form each half into a disk shape and roll flat and thin to fit your pie dish. Sprinkle flour under and on top of your dough to keep it from sticking to your rolling surface. Trim excess dough to about 1 inch from the dish edge with a scissors, leaving enough dough to make crimped, fluted edge.