Need Hope? Jane Goodall Will Give You Some

This post originally aired as a commentary on Tri States Public Radio. To listen, go here.

Author E.B. White once said, “I get up every morning determined to both change the world and have one hell of a good time. Sometimes this makes planning my day difficult.”

For me, planning my day is never the problem. I get up every morning determined to change the world – but only after I’ve had my coffee and listened to the news.

For the past two weeks, the top story has been Russia’s looming threat to invade the Ukraine, adding “the possibility of World War III” to the mountain of anxieties I already have. With the pandemic, the climate crisis, gun violence, greed, racism, and more, it’s a Mount Everest of despair. It feels so impossible to change anything, let alone have any influence at all, that I swing the opposite direction, figuring if we’re all gonna die, I might as well have “one hell of a good time.” And so, I help myself to the second slice of chocolate pie. I take the spontaneous trip to Cancun. I buy the $25 bottle of Cabernet instead of the $6 one and drink a glass too many. But all that’s done is pack on nine extra pounds and deplete my bank account.

Indulgence is not the answer.

I know I’m not alone in this feeling of futility to change the world. But I also know there are optimists among us who can inspire us to keep trying. Jane Goodall is one of them.

After hearing about her latest book, “The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times,” I ran out to buy it. Given that Jane Goodall is a naturalist, I was surprised to find it in the self-help section of the bookstore. But help is what I needed to ward off heart palpitations and further weight gain.

The book is coauthored by Douglas Abrams, who, in a series of interviews with Jane, presses the 87-year-old to answer the question: How can you still be hopeful when everything seems so dire?

She lists four reasons:

• the amazing human intellect
• the resilience of nature
• the power of young people
• the indomitable human spirit

We may have created the problems, but she believes with our intellect, we are smart enough to solve them. And that with our instinct for survival, our human spirit will drive us to not give up, even when there’s a chance we won’t succeed. Jane acknowledges that things are indeed dire, but she insists we can turn things around if we get together and act now. Every small action helps. Each of us must do our bit.

“Hope is contagious,” she says. “Your actions inspire others.”

This snowball effect makes sense, but where do we start? “It’s in nature where we can find the answers and the hope,” she explains.

The only time Jane has lost hope was when her husband died, but turning to nature helped restore it, claiming, “It was the forest that helped me most of all.” The natural world is also where she feels most connected with a Great Spiritual Power. She says it’s that power that gives her the courage and strength to keep going, to keep sharing her message and continue fighting for justice, environmental and otherwise.

I was surprised to learn that the grief we feel over climate crisis has a name – eco-grief. Jane suggests that our survival depends on confronting that grief and getting over our feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. We can find healing in nature, she reminds us, as well as wisdom, cautioning that when we lose the connection with the natural world, we lose our wisdom.

“The Book of Hope” is packed with many more of Jane’s insights and is absolutely worth reading. Equally inspiring, listen to Jane’s interview, titled “What it Means to Be Human,” on Krista Tippett’s “On Being” podcast.

This past weekend, I channeled my inner Jane Goodall, and went for a hike with three girlfriends. While walking through the forest and fields, we determined that in addition to picking up empty beer cans and other litter, which we do on all our hikes, we could plant more trees to replace the ones a local farmer recently cut down. These are the small but impactful actions we can take that add up to bigger change.

Energized by the sun, the wind in our faces, and the beauty of the landscape, we walked four miles, talking and laughing the whole way. Between the camaraderie of friends and the immersion in nature, our spirits were restored. And as a bonus, the exercise was a step toward dropping those extra nine pounds. In the words of E.B. White, our hike was “a hell of a good time.” And, best of all, it left me feeling hopeful.

My Pie Cookbook, Now in Paperback

Finally! It’s back! Now in paperback, and as an ebook.

If you just want to buy the book, you can get in on Amazon, IndieBound, or ask your local bookseller. If you want to hear the story of how the book came back into print, read on.

My cookbook, MS. AMERICAN PIE, originally published in hardcover in 2014, sold well at first, so well that the publisher did a second print run. But the book’s trajectory was shorter lived than anticipated, because several months after its release, I closed the Pitchfork Pie Stand and moved out of the American Gothic House.

Suicidal business move? Maybe. Good for my mental health? Definitely. Do I regret it? Sometimes. There’s so much I miss about the house, the pie stand, and the community that sprung up around it.

Anyway, the publisher was not too happy about my departure, and when the inventory sold out they wouldn’t print any more copies. “PLEASE,” I begged them, “people are still asking to buy it.” “No,” they said.

Welcome to the life of an author. Unless you are a legend like Julia Child, or your pie shop is still in business to guarantee ongoing sales, your cookbook will likely be left behind in the flour dust.

I had worked too hard on this book to let it die. So I got my text rights back from the publisher, and bought the design files from them, which included the layout, photos, illustrations, all of it. I paid way more than I will ever recoup in future book sales — I could have bought a car for less — but at least my book is back in print and once again available for purchase.

I had talked with other publishers about printing the second edition, but there were downsides to this. One, I’d give up my text rights again. Two, the book wouldn’t be out until 2022. And three, it would be printed in China, and the shipment may get stranded on a ship with all the supply-chain delays. This is why I opted tp self-publish it.

I’ve written about self-publishing before on my blog, about its advantages, about print-on-demand being better for the environment, about the satisfaction of having creative control. Yes, distribution to bookstores is a challenge, but the biggest challenge to self-publishing a full-color cookbook with a lot of photos is the cost. A self-published hardcover edition would have required me to raise the cover price from $28 to $40 — only to make 50 cents per copy. As it is, the price of the paperback is the same as the original hardcover — $28 — the lowest price allowed by the self-publishing platforms due to the sizable cut they take. My take on that is around a dollar per copy.

Clearly, I’m not in this for the money.

The feedback on the paperback version has been good. It’s got everything the hardcover has — it’s packed full with the same recipes (plus 2 new ones) — and because it’s lighter weight it’s easier to use. Also, you won’t have to wait for it — it’s available now! One customer got her copy the very next day. This means you can get my cookbook in time for Thanksgiving — and for Christmas presents. HINT!!

Thank you for encouraging me to get my book back out there. I really appreciate your support!

*****   To order go to Amazon, IndieBound, or ask your local bookseller.  *****

Tis the Season . . . for Finding Solutions

This essay originally aired on TriStates Public Radio. Go here to listen.

Bah humbug. I don’t know about you but I’m really struggling with the holidays this year. It’s a perfect storm, a trifecta of winter weather, the pandemic, and climate crisis. I mean, geez, why bother even getting out of bed? But I only allow myself to take refuge under the covers for so long until I remind myself to focus not on the problems, but on the solutions. 

The solution to cold weather. 

Like 20 percent of the population, I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. The shorter days, the gray skies, and the overall lack of light all conspire to bring me down faster than the plummeting temperatures. Over the years I’ve tried everything: vitamin D, light box therapy, antidepressants, and exercise. Exercise worked well. Too well. Two winters ago, I swam in the tropical waters of our local rec center pool and it was so helpful to my mood that I kept swimming – until I injured my shoulders. Shoulder pain or not, I’m too worried about the virus to go to a rec center this winter. The only other thing that gives me relief from sunlight deprivation is the sun itself. So I followed the migration of the monarchs who flee to the south and am spending the winter in Arizona. The sun fuels my soul. Though, unfortunately, the weather is not as warm as my body requires. The better solution would have been to go with the monarchs all the way to Mexico. But . . . the pandemic.

The solution to the pandemic. 

The New York Times just ran an article titled, “The Double Whammy of Seasonal Affective Disorder in a Season of COVID.” God help me — and the millions of others who suffer from even just a mild version of SAD. If not for my fear of ending up on a ventilator, I would be spending time with my family, but I had to decline my brother’s invitation to celebrate Thanksgiving with him and his college-age kids, as that would have been like stepping into a COVID petri dish. I would be in Los Angeles right now visiting my mom to bring us both some holiday cheer, but LA is under lock-down for three weeks. Instead, I am — along with just about everyone in the world – grieving not only the loss of lives, but the loss of connection that the pandemic has bestowed. There is no gathering in groups for holiday parties for some much-needed face-to-uncovered face conversation, or even more important, hugging. There is no taking my laptop to a coffeehouse, lingering over a good meal at a restaurant, or browsing for hours in a bookstore. As humans, we require physical and social contact for our wellbeing. But life as we’ve known it is over, and this is causing tremendous grief. 

But I know grief. I know what helps heal it – and that is doing nice things for others. Like making a pie for a friend who is even more depressed than you. Or buying groceries for someone who lost their job. Or donating winter coats to a coat drive. And now that the holidays are upon us, we can get an added dopamine hit by giving gifts to others. That was the case for me as I got lured into the frenzy of Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. But then I was like, “Wait. Consumerism is bad for the environment. By buying non-essential, made-in-China things, with all the plastic and all the fossil fuels required from manufacturing all the way to delivery, I’m only contributing to the climate crisis.” 

The solution to the climate crisis. 

This is the ultimate source of my grief. Seasonal Affective Disorder is only seasonal so there is always an end in sight. And we are so close to getting people vaccinated against the virus, which will enable us to get control over the pandemic. But the climate? The media keeps reporting that it’s too late to fix it, making every other crisis – like racism, poverty, immigration, and political divisiveness – a moot point. Talk about depressing! My brother, who shares my current Grinch mindset, came to my rescue by recommending a book called “Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming,” edited by Paul Hawken. Instead of dwelling on the apocalypse, it offers guidance on practical things we can do to help save the planet. Too late or not, it’s a dose of hope. Another book, one for the holiday season, is “Have Yourself a Minimalist Christmas” by Meg Nordmann. She writes about ways we can give without adding to the stress on our mental state, our wallets, and, ultimately, our landfills, by finding value in “experiences over objects” and giving comestible gifts instead of material ones. I, for one, would prefer receiving a box of chocolates over anything that adds to the clutter in my house. 

Meanwhile, I keep telling myself – and anyone else who’s struggling — to hang on a little longer. This is a hard patch, but it’s ultimately a blip in time. I’m going to keep getting out of bed, taking walks in the sun, wearing my mask, and recycling – while holding tight to the knowledge that this, too, shall pass.

You might also like reading these previous posts:

How I’m Dealing with the Pandemic and Other Anxieties

An Outlet for Dealing with Overwhelming Issues

What to Do with All That Privilege

For pie-making help, check out my YouTube series, Stay Calm and Bake Pie

Pie Shop for Sale in Pie Town, NM


Dreaming of running your own pie shop? Looking to move from the city to the country? I mean, this pandemic is making most of us rethink our lives — and our livelihoods — so why not move to a sparsely populated area on the Continental Divide?

Pie-O-Neer in Pie Town, New Mexico is for sale!

This beloved shop is turn-key with all the equipment and furniture, a built-in loyal customer base, international press, and even an on-site apartment. 
Kathy and Stanley will be missed (and god knows, so will Kathy’s pies), but whoever takes it over can turn it into something with their own style. (Think bigger, like adding an Airstream motel on the property.)  
Call Matthew (sales broker) for more info. (720) 545-8859  
To learn about the history of the pie shop and to drool over the pictures of Kathy’s pies, go to their website. https://pieoneer.com

Pie for Minneapolis: A Small But Mighty Thing to Do

On the morning of May 29, I woke up to news that Minneapolis police had arrested an African-American reporter for CNN who was covering the protests resulting from the murder of George Floyd.  Already outraged by Floyd’s death and the subsequent aggression of police toward peaceful protesters, this latest arrest triggered a tipping point for me, a call to action. 


“I can’t just sit here; I need to do something!” I shouted at my computer, while reading the barrage of more news, fueling more outrage. I had had this same reaction after the Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012, which resulted in a spontaneous cross-country drive to bake 250 pies with a team of 60 volunteers, and handing out free slices of apple, cherry and others flavors to bring comfort to a grieving community. All that pie didn’t bring back the 26 first-graders and teachers who lost their lives, it did not change gun laws, but the residents appreciated the gesture of kindness, the display of care.

Which is why I knew when I felt that familiar ache in my heart I had to go to Minneapolis with an offering of pie.

By the afternoon of the 29th, a Friday, I put out the word on social media that if anyone in the Twin Cities could donate homemade pie, I would designate a few drop-off locations and would be handing it out on Sunday. 

What I hadn’t factored in was that people outside of Minneapolis wanted to make pies to send with me. Even with such short notice, people who knew I was driving the length of Iowa began sending me messages: “What time will you be coming through . . .” each message began, followed by the name of their town. . . Iowa City. Cedar Rapids. Ames. Hampton. Mason City. Burnsville. 

My neighbor Liza wrote, “I’ll make a few pies. And I can pick up ingredients for you at the store if you need.” Yes, I did need ingredients—enough butter and apples for six pies. 


My friend Esther, who is an excellent pie baker, messaged me around 10:00 p.m. asking, “I want to send some pies with you. What time are you leaving in the morning?”

“7:30 a.m.,” I told her.


“I can do it,” she replied, her words filled with determination, dedication, and a desire to help.

The next morning, Esther pulled into my driveway at 7:30 on the dot, bearing two pies. The top crust of her cherry pie was a collection of hearts, a message of love to George Floyd and Minneapolis. Liza had three pies waiting for me when I stopped by her house, adding to the six I had made with the help of my boyfriend, Doug, who had peeled 12 pounds of Granny Smith apples while I made the dough. 

At the very last minute—because this was all last minute—Sarah, a neighbor who lives only one mile away, had offered to drive to Minneapolis with me. We spoke on the phone late Friday night and I picked her up the next morning. It didn’t matter that we had never met. I knew that anyone whose heart was crying out I need to do something! loud enough to jump in a car with a stranger—during a pandemic, no less—would be an instant friend. Besides, I have seen over and over how pie serves as a catalyst for connecting people. 

Sarah, a spunky 40-something with a pixie haircut and a sweet smile, strapped on her N-95 mask, tossed her duffle bag in the back, and took over the driving so I could coordinate the pie pickups along our route, arranging roadside meeting times at truck stops. 

I also checked my messages.

“Be careful,” everyone wrote to me. “The situation is dangerous.” They spoke mostly of the protests, with a few adding the reminder that, by the way, there is still a deadly virus lurking. I had at least 200 messages repeating this same sentiment.  


The fact is I was a little scared. But I was not going to let fear paralyze me. I rationalized that it was more dangerous to my health, physically and mentally, to stay home and let my blood pressure rise and my despair grow than to hand out pie on the streets of a Midwestern city. Sometimes, you have to turn off the news, bake some pie, pack up your car, and just go. Do not overthink it. Do not listen to the naysayers. Do not worry about not having a plan in place. If you let your heart guide you, the courage will come, the rest will take shape.

I came up with a list of pat responses to the cautionary notes: 

“I have friends in Minneapolis who I’ve been talking with and they have assured me that it’s safe, that the atmosphere is 90% positive.”

“We will not be outside at night. And we are staying at a friend’s house in a suburb.”

“We will be wearing masks and gloves while out in public.”

“And,” I made a point to add, “We will definitely not be joining any protests.”

The first thing we did upon arriving in Minneapolis was join a protest. 

Our host, Therese Kiser, a high school classmate from Iowa who has lived in Minnesota for 30 years, took us downtown to show us around. We parked and walked past destroyed buildings, some still on fire, others still smoldering, others reduced to a pile of mangled steel and rubble. We watched as residents continued to board up their businesses, with artists swooping in right behind them to paint protest statements, peace signs, and portraits of George Floyd on the boards. Some of the boards had pleas written in a scrawl of spray paint: “Please don’t burn this building, People live here.” 



An organized protest had taken place at 2:00. We stumbled upon the tail end of it (though in reality, the protests are ongoing with some springing up spontaneously). The streets were closed and cars were replaced by people of all colors and ages—groups of Somali women wearing long dresses and head coverings, a middle-aged white guy on his bike wearing a Martin Luther King T-shirt, a young girl with purple hair in a shirt with the words “WE ARE ALL EQUAL” in bold letters. Almost everyone, including us, was wearing a mask. Many were holding up homemade signs made from cardboard scraps that read: Black Lives Matter. Justice for George. No justice, No Peace. RIP George Floyd. And the most gut-wrenching one, I Can’t Breathe. 

The peaceful and inspirational energy was more contagious than the coronavirus, as the next thing I knew I was taking a knee and holding up a fist shouting, “One love!” Being there—right there in this moment with this crowd willing to risk the potential consequences, from tear gas to COVID-19—boosted my faith in humanity to see so many people uniting for change.

A banner displaying a picture of Mr. Floyd had come loose from the intersection stoplight where it hung, and was dangling from one edge. In a dramatic high-wire act, an athletic black man climbed up to secure it, battling gravity and wind as he straddled the light post. The crowd erupted in a cheer when he finally succeeded in reattaching the banner. When he slipped, a collective gasp filled the air as he hung only by his hands, unable to pull himself up. This was followed by another round of cheering and applause after a group of people formed a human safety net, catching him when he let go of his grip.

And that is the extent of danger we experienced during the protest.

After that, we walked down Lake Avenue, logging over five miles according to Sarah’s Fit Bit, passing more ruins of stores and restaurants, cars with smashed windows, graffiti admonishing the harsh treatment of Blacks by law enforcement, and crews of people carrying brooms and buckets already cleaning up the mess. There were many others like us, subdued, heartbroken souls walking the city streets, wanting to take it all in, wanting to understand it, to be part of it, wanting to help change things, to make things better, equal and just.

With freeways closing at 7 p.m. and a curfew of 8 p.m., we returned to Therese’s where we made a rhubarb pie from the rhubarb her friend had just picked. Our pie, along with the ones Therese’s friends had made, brought our total up to 37. With the 15 more we would be picking up in the morning we had 52 pies—more than 400 slices to share with the grieving community of Minneapolis. 

Rachel Swan is the owner of a pie business called Pie and Mighty. After baking pies out of a church basement for several years, she and her wife and business partner, Ratchet, finally opened their own retail space in mid-March in time for Pi Day, 3.14. No sooner had they opened, the pandemic forced them to close, and just as businesses were allowed to reopen, George Floyd was killed. Pie and Mighty is at 36th and Chicago, two blocks from the epicenter of what has blown into a worldwide outpouring of anger and grief.

Rachel knows the power of pie, how the alchemy of ingredients as basic as flour, butter, sugar and fruit can spread joy. Which is why I called her first thing Friday morning, after realizing that I had to “do something.” 

“How are you holding up?” I asked. 

“We are tired and hurting, but we are still baking pie,” she said. 

Rachel supported my idea to come up and hand out free pie and offered her shop as a base. Her generosity did not surprise me, but I also did not take it for granted. “I don’t want this to interfere or take away from your business,” I insisted.


“The more joy we can spread, the better,” she assured me. 

Just over 24 hours later, on Sunday morning, less than 48 hours after deciding to make the trek north, I showed up at her door—which had been shattered the night before, so it, along with the other windows, was boarded up. The beginnings of an elegant mural already adorned the boards, the design based around the words, “George Floyd, Father, Son, Beautiful Spirit.”

“I put out a call to artists on Instagram,” she said. Of course she did. That is Rachel, a gentle, caring soul who embodies the healing values not only of pie but also of public art. 


The streets were quiet at 9 a.m. on Sunday, though two blocks down I could see a small group had already gathered in front of Cup Foods to pay their respects to George Floyd. 

We had discussed other possible places for handing out pie. Maybe it would be safer if we were outside a church, we had mused. But being at Pie and Mighty would prove to be an ideal location, just far enough removed from the fast-growing crowd down the street to be manageable, and close enough to serve the foot traffic, a steady stream of mourners taking bouquets of flowers to place at the memorial, tired cleanup crews, and families with their kids in tow to educate them on why racism must stop.
Our crew of volunteers for the day was comprised mostly of people I had never met. Tina, Xan, Marie, and Carol, all from Minneapolis—and Sarah from Iowa—were there because they had seen my post on Facebook. A woman named Desra, a friend of my friend Esther, had come to help. She was from Donnellson, the same small town as Sarah and me. She knew Sarah from working together years earlier at a café. That they were both at Pie and Mighty was a coincidence. The only people I knew were Therese and Rachel. But to see us all working as a team, suited up in face masks and food service gloves, slicing pies, doling out plastic forks, and offering pie to passersby, you would have thought we were all longtime friends. Similar to how protests bring people together, the desire to bring comfort to others through pie, united us with a common cause. We may not have known each other before this day, but like individual strips of dough woven into a lattice crust, our lives would forever after be intertwined.

For three hours we served pie until every last crumb of the 600-some pieces had been served. (More pies showed up Sunday morning putting us at around 80 pies total.) Mostly I stayed inside Rachel’s shop, putting pie slices onto plates. I wanted to be outside, talking with people, listening to what they had to say and how they were feeling, learning about them. But the relative quiet in the kitchen and the repetitive motion of sliding my pie server under slice after slice after slice, lifting each piece onto a plate, was its own form of grief therapy and act of service. A minuscule act, yes, but as they say, the ocean is made of tiny drops of water. 

Without even assigning roles everyone contributed in giving of themselves, and in making things run smoothly. Tina was outside holding the “Free Pie” sign over her head for the entire three hours—except for the 10 minutes she left to get paper plates when we ran out. Marie kept the table tidy, while Sarah and Desra shuttled slices out from the kitchen as fast as I could cut them. Sarah’s Fit Bit probably logged another five miles. And Therese, who knows how to engage the public, given she’s a city council member in her suburb, took the time to draw out people’s stories.


I gleaned snippets of conversation taking place, and heard countless times, “Thank you for being here. Thank you for doing this.” Black, Latinx, Asian, Caucasian, short, tall, skinny, chubby, scruffy, coiffed, toddlers, teenagers, moms, dads, same-sex couples . . .  pie was served to anyone who wanted a piece. Pie knows no cultural boundaries. Pie does not discriminate. 

Likewise, with offerings of apple, cherry, rhubarb, peach, peach crumble, pecan, pumpkin, chocolate cream, and combinations thereof, like cherry-rhubarb, strawberry-rhubarb, and mixed berry—our selection of pies was equally diverse. There was something for everyone. 

An older woman who was with her husband was so moved by the free pie, she had tears in her eyes. But mostly, people’s faces lit up at the sight of all those slices lined up on the gingham tablecloth and they smiled. While enjoying the flaky crust melting in their mouths and the sweetness on the their tongues, they could forget about the trauma the world is experiencing, even if just for those few precious minutes. Pie is a salve that way.

“Pie isn’t going to fix anything,” someone had commented on social media. 

“No, it isn’t,” I replied. “But making and sharing pie is one small thing we can do right now. And we have to trust that all those small things are going to add up to make a positive impact. People are looking for ways to help, but don’t know what to do.” 

Showing up for a protest is not for everyone. Sending money is good, but often doesn’t feel like it’s enough. A physical task, like making pie, offers a sense of purpose—and a few hours’ respite from the news.

I know pie can’t save the world. Pie can’t bring back George Floyd or end racism (and police brutality). But pie does make people feel better. This tiny bit of comfort, this small gesture of kindness, conveys a bigger, more powerful message that says, “I see you. I hear you. I care about you. You matter. Black lives matter.” Even if you bake just one pie at time and share it with someone (maybe someone outside your own circle or comfort zone) to make a connection, to bridge a divide, to initiate a conversation about racism, it’s a start. And even if change comes slowly and incrementally, if you show up and make the effort, as we all must do, a change is gonna come.


People kept asking on Sunday if we were taking donations. With their five, ten or twenty dollar bills already in hand, they would frown when we said, “No, we’re just here to give away pie.” Still, they insisted, practically shoving the money into our hands. This is what I mean when I say you can do this without a plan in place. It took mere seconds to come up with a solution. I grabbed a Sharpie and scribbled “Pie it Forward Fund” on a paper lunch sack. Pie and Mighty has a program where customers can round up their bill and the money goes toward giving free pie to someone who needs cheering up, for example, or a way to say thank you. Though, as Rachel says, and I agree with her, “We think everyone needs pie.” So in the coming weeks and months, when the smoke has cleared, the last of the broken glass swept from the sidewalks, the bouquets of flowers at Mr. Floyd’s memorial withered, the four officers handed down their prison sentences, Minneapolis will still get free pie. If you know someone who could use a slice (or a whole pie), give Pie and Mighty a call. 


Before leaving Minneapolis, Therese, Sarah and I spent an hour at George Floyd’s memorial site. The images and feelings are still so vivid—the piles of flowers arranged in sacred circles surrounded by throngs of people, the sympathy cards taped to the bus stop and buildings, the music played by a DJ moving people to dance, the free water and food offered everywhere from hot dogs to peanut butter sandwiches to whole boxes of groceries. Tears streamed down my face as I soaked in this pool of collective grief, compassion, and call for change. No amount of darkness could keep the light of humanity from shining through. If only this light, this love, this hope for the future, could be transmitted through a television screen or computer monitor. It’s a message that needs to be spread so much further in order to break the generational chains of bias and bigotry, to erase the lines of division and see that we are all so much more alike than we are different. So when you see all those protesters on the news, I can tell you firsthand, there is a more powerful, more valid reason for them to be there than any news story can convey. 

Once again, I thank pie for taking me places where I never otherwise would have gone.

It’s Wednesday, three days after our pie giveaway, and I am back on the farm in Iowa. In the midst of wrestling with a resurgence of despair after reading about the latest outrage, Rachel forwarded me a note from one of her customers who had stopped by on Sunday. “Please extend our heartfelt gratitude to all the pie makers from Iowa. We took their love and kindness into our bodies as nourishment, and it will remain with us always.”

Remember these words as your heart screams, “I can’t just sit here; I have to do something!” Don’t let the fear, the negative news, or the sense of overwhelm stop you. Because doing something, even if it’s just feeding people a few homemade pies, is absolutely, positively better than doing nothing at all. 


******

Read about Rose McGee who gave out free sweet potato pies in Minneapolis this week.

“This is the sacred dessert of Black culture,” McGee told HuffPost. At a time when many people feel hopeless and exhausted, these particular pies offer much more than physical sustenance. “They link us to our history, they soothe our souls and they renew us for the work ahead,” she said.

I love what she is doing, her efforts to heal extend beyond pie, and I hope to meet her one day. 

******


If you are interested in organizing your own pie giveaway, here are some tips:


1. Use your network to get homemade pies donated. (I’ve done events with store-bought pies and it does not have the same effect.) Unless you can organize a group baking effort, you will need to rely on individuals to bake at home. Try to offer pies that do not require refrigeration. Designate a drop-off location for the pies.  

2. Gather your supplies: folding tables, washable tablecloths, pie servers, knives, plastic forks, paper plates, napkins, food service gloves, face masks, wet wipes, dish towels, garbage can and bags, signage (just “Free Pie” works well). 


3. Promote your event through social media, email, etc. Tell everyone to spread the word. Include details like time, place, and the reason/cause for your giveaway.


4. During the giveaway, interact with people and let them tell you their stories. Pie always gets people to talk and that is the point—to create community, to unite us, to heal us. 

You may also want to read this post from 2107:  What To Do With All That Privilege

Minneapolis Pie Giveaway — Sunday, May 31, 2020

Reading the news this morning provoked the same reaction I had after the Sandy Hook shooting — I cannot just sit here and feel outraged; I NEED TO DO SOMETHING

This is why I’m on my way to Minneapolis to coordinate a pie giveaway on SUNDAY. 

Why pie? Because sharing pie is sharing peace, comfort, kindness, love, inclusivity, generosity. 

Pie is also about building community. And to accomplish this effort we need pies! A lot of pies! While I wish we could gather together and bake as a group, the coronavirus prevents us from doing that. Instead, we can bake pies from the safety of our own homes. Giving away pie is a small thing we can do but it’s a positive thing — baking pies will get you away from the news and into the kitchen to make something to share with others. It’s a win-win and a salve for the soul.


For those of you in the Minneapolis/St Paul area who want to donate pies (or help hand out free slices), we have 2 designated pie drop-off locations. 


PIE DROP-OFF LOCATIONS: 

PIE AND MIGHTY, 3553 CHICAGO AVENUE SOUTH
(https://www.pieandmightymsp.com/contacthttps://www.pieandmightymsp.com/contact)  
Drop-off hours are Saturday 9AM to 2PM. 

EDEN PRAIRIE DROP-OFF LOCATION: 9416 Clubhouse Road, Eden Prairie, MN

Anything you want to do to help is appreciated. The word from my friends in the area is that the atmosphere is turning more positive, that there are many people out and about, some offering food, others helping with cleanup, many paying respects at the George Floyd memorial site.

When baking, please note that pie dishes will not be returned (disposable aluminum dishes work well). Refrigeration is not available so no cream or custard pies. (Fruit pies, like apple, travel best.) And please have your pie covered when dropping it off (tin foil, plastic wrap, a box.)


Donated MASKS would also be appreciated as we can hand them out to people who don’t have them along with slices of pie.


PLEASE SHARE THIS POST. And please let me know if you have any suggestions or ideas to help make this effort the most generous and helpful it can be. Every little thing, every homemade pie, helps make the world a better place. Thank you!


#BlackLivesMatter #JusticeforGeorgeFloyd #Pieequalspeace #Pieislove #Baketheworldabetterplace

Introducing Farm Week at Camp Doug(h) – Sign up now!

Iowa is considered the Heartland of America. Zoom in a little closer, to the southeast corner where the Iowa, Illinois and Missouri borders meet, and you will find Camp Doug(h). Previously known to Doug’s friends as Camp Doug, the (h) was added when Beth moved as a nod to her baking.

Beth Howard and Doug Seyb

Camp Doug(h) is part of a 1,000-acre Century Farm, owned and operated by the Seyb Family for over 100 years. It is a fully operational working farm with corn, soybeans, wheat, alfalfa, cattle, and pigs. Here, they still do many things the old-fashioned way, like baling hay into square bales and stacking them in the barn loft. There are planted fields of crops that grow taller than your head in rich, black soil. There are forests of cedar, maple, oak, hedge, and birch. There are ponds and creeks noisy with croaking frogs, pastures filled with cows peacefully grazing, and skies, free from light pollution, so black at night it’s easy to see shooting stars—and hear hooting owls. Iowa is understatedly picturesque and it’s not all flat! The landscape and its gently rolling hills are what inspired Grant Wood’s famous works of art.

Sleep in a 100-year-old farmhouse!
Cuddle baby pigs!

Come see for yourself during a farm immersion hosted by farmer Doug Seyb and author Beth Howard.

There are two farmhouses on the property with accommodations, including 2 guest rooms in Doug and Beth’s house and a bunkhouse-style set up in what was Doug’s parents’ house.

To give you the best, most immersive experience, we are starting out with only 4 participants per session, though we can go up to 8 in the future.

All meals are provided—including wine, whisky, coffee and espresso drinks—except for the 2 nights we go out for dinner. (Our local spots are cheap and casual. You’d be amazed at how far $10 will go!) While our growing season is too short to do 100% farm to table, the food we prepare will include as many ingredients from the farm as possible.

Eat farm-to-table meals outdoors by candlelight!



Spots are limited, so reserve yours now.

Contact us.



CLASSES  

Pie (taught by Beth, for fruit and cream pies)

Quilting (make your own pillow cover)

Artisan bread making (make rustic-style crusty wholegrain bread)

Rug weaving (make your own hand-woven rug)

Do goat yoga!


EXERCISE AND ACTIVITIES

Hiking in Shimek Forest and other nearby reserves

Kayaking and canoeing on Des Moines River and Skunk
River (weather permitting)

Yoga (Here’s your chance to try goat yoga! Or piglet yoga!)

Biking (mountain bikes and beach cruisers available)

Go canoeing!

Swim in the ponds

Writing/Journaling

Walks around the farm fields and trails

Wildflower walk (April—June)

Mushroom picking (April)

Arrowhead and artifact hunting

Fishing

Dive into the pond!

Feed the goats!







Sit by the fire!








FARM EXPERIENCES

Cuddle with baby pigs

Tour the farm on a side-by-side (think 4WD golf cart)

Feed the cows

Ride on a tractor or combine

Feed the goats

Ride a bike and pick rhubarb for pie!

FARM TO TABLE MEALS (*must love meat!)

Pork chops
T-bone steaks
Hamburgers
Sausage
Bacon
Farm fresh eggs (from our neighbors)
Fish (blue gill from our ponds)
Garden produce (when in season, canned when not)
Homemade bread
Homemade pie
S’mores around the bonfire

SHOPPING AND SIGHTSEEING

Visit to the American Gothic House (have your photo taken in costumes in front of the house featured in Grant Wood’s iconic painting)

Drive through the Villages of Van Buren County (bucolic scenery in authentic, non-touristy Amish country)

Shop at the Dutchman’s Store (an old-fashioned general store run by Mennonites)
Taste cheese at Milton Creamery (a small cheese factory run by Mennonites)

Eat at a rural tavern and eat a plate-size pork tenderloin sandwich (an Iowa specialty)

Watch the barges go through the locks on the Mississippi River (in winter, watch bald eagles fishing)

Listen to live Americana folk music (we have a variety of rural venues)

Help herd cattle!













FURTHER AFIELD 

Hannibal, Missouri (visit Mark Twain’s birthplace)

Saint Louis, Missouri (The Arch, good BBQ, and major league baseball)

Fairfield, Iowa (Home of Transcendental Meditation/Maharishi University)

Iowa City, Iowa (UNESCO City of Literature)

OUR CLOSEST AIRPORTS

Cedar Rapids, Iowa (CID) – 1-1/2 hours

Moline, Illinois (MLI) – 2 hours

Des Moines, Iowa (DSM) – 2-1/2 hours

St. Louis, Missouri (STL) – 3 hours

For more details and to book your stay, contact us here.

Ride on the side-by-side and swim in the pond!

The Winners of the Ms. American Pie Cookbook Giveaway

And the winners of the three Ms. American Pie cookbooks are….

1. Larry’s Photos
2. Karen Wirima
3. Jane Adams

Winners, please email me with your contact details.  beth (at) theworldneedsmorepie (dot) com

CONGRATS!

And if you didn’t win, I’ll do another giveaway in a few months. But you can always buy the book — available everywhere online and in stores at Barnes & Noble, and many other booksellers nationwide.

Original contest post is here: http://theworldneedsmorepie.blogspot.com/2015/03/win-copy-of-ms-american-pie.html

Win a copy of Ms. American Pie!

To celebrate National Pi Day, which was 2 days ago, and, well, “just because,” we’re giving away THREE copies of my cookbook, “Ms. American Pie.” And it’s ridiculously easy to win. Just write your name in the comment field below. Cut off time for entering is Friday, March 20 at Noon PT (3PM ET). Check back on Friday at 2PM PT/5PM ET and we’ll have the 3 winners posted.

If you already have my cookbook (or my memoir, “Making Piece,”) I’d love it if you would post a review on Amazon or Goodreads or, hey, wherever you like. Your comments are appreciated.

A peek inside the book…and when you get the book you
get a peek inside the American Gothic House
The book is full of easy recipes. Really easy.
Even I can make them!


World’s easiest pie to make: Coconut Custard.
Recipe is on page 125 of my cookbook.

The world needs more pie. Make enough for everyone.

If pie makes people happy, then pie cookbooks
make people REALLY happy. 
Blueberry crumble baby. Okay, so maybe a little brown,
but pie is not about perfection!

More happy people — made happier by making their own pie.
I’m teaching classes again — now in Los Angeles.
Click on this link for details.

Of course the best part, besides sharing your homemade pie,
is getting to enjoy a slice yourself!

Remember, leave your name in the comment field below and check back here on Friday to see if you won. Winners will be picked in a drawing and posted here on the blog. If you won, you’ll need to send me your full name and mailing address. And if you don’t win, well, you can always buy the cookbook. I won’t mind. Better yet, you’ll be glad you did. 

Finding Forgiveness in the Face of a Christmas Tragedy

Death is not a fun or festive topic to bring up at the holidays, but death—and sometimes tragedy—does not elude us regardless of the season.

Two years ago I drove my RV to Newtown, Connecticut to make and deliver homemade pies to the grieving community after the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Twenty-six people in the school, most of them around the tender age of six, were killed by a lone—and lonely—mentally ill gunman.

The story rocked the nation—distressed by the senseless loss of innocence. It was so blatantly wrong. So deeply troubling. It was impossible for me to sit with the sadness, the outrage and the overwhelming compassion, so much so that I got up from my desk, loaded up my pie-making supplies in the RV, and headed 1,000 miles east from Iowa to Newtown. I spent a full week away—several days in Flanders, New Jersey, where my friend Janice had organized what ended up being 60 volunteers in her neighborhood, and then several days in Newtown, where we handed out apple pie to a community hungry for comfort and support. Our gesture was in the form of food, food made with heart containing the intangible ingredient of love. It felt good to help. To not just read about it and sit alone with feelings of frustration, but to get involved, to actually do something.

It’s exactly two years later and I just moved from Iowa to Redondo Beach, California, so I could be nearer to my parents. (It is also very nice to be nearer to the beach.) I just settled into an apartment about 15 minutes away from theirs.

On Wednesday night, December 17, I spent the evening with my parents at their place. (I never turn down my mom’s cooking so I’m eating there nearly every night.) I was driving home after dinner around 10PM and my route along Pacific Coast Highway was blocked off by police cars, their emergency lights flashing red and blue in the darkness. I followed the other cars around that section of the three-block detour, but managed to catch a glimpse of the police scene. It appeared to be a car accident. Three cars were wedged together, their metal hoods buckled, in the middle of the highway. A team was surrounding it, measuring and documenting. I noted the Channel 5 news truck parked to the side. I continued on to my place, turned on the lights in my living room, and called my mom to let her know I made it home safely (a courtesy ingrained from the time I got my drivers license.) “Turn on the news to Channel 5, mom,” I told her. “There was an accident on PCH and it must have been bad.”

She called back a few minutes later. It was worse than bad. A 56-year-old woman, apparently intoxicated, ran a red light, drove around some stopped cars, and mowed down 12 people in a crosswalk who were just leaving a Christmas concert at St. James Catholic Church. The woman kept driving and only stopped when she plowed head-on into another car. All 12, plus the drunk driver and the driver of the car she hit, were injured. Or dead.

My heart crumpled into what felt like a wad of wrapping paper as I heard the news. Those poor people. Families coming out of a church Christmas concert. The definition of innocence—and the instant loss of it. It felt like Newtown all over again. Only this time a car was the weapon. Two of the people killed were grandmothers. One was a 36-year-old mother. The next day that mother’s six-year-old boy died from his injuries. He never had a chance. The child had been pinned under the tires of one of the cars. Some of the others injured are still in the hospital, several in serious condition.

Mine wasn’t the only heart to break over this story. The tragedy made international news, news that I was following closely, refreshing my news app every hour to see if anything more was known, anything that would help make sense of this otherwise mind-bending senselessness. Just how drunk was this woman? Did she have a driving record? How could this have happened? More importantly, how does a community recover? And what could I do to help? Make pie?

I was back at my parents for dinner last night, a Sunday. The topic of the tragedy came up again, what the media is calling the “Christmas concert crash.” I hadn’t told my mom how deeply I was still feeling for these Redondo Beach residents and their loss, and how I was wondering why it was still bothering me so much. Was it because it was in my own new neighborhood? Or because I came upon the site just two hours after it happened? Were the departed souls still at the scene and I was feeling their presence? Was it the knowledge from my own tragic losses of my late husband 5 years ago and my daughter-like dog, Daisy, only 5 weeks ago?

I wish I didn’t know what grief feels like, but I do. Which is why when grief strikes others in that sudden and unexpected way, my compassion escalates, soars. I have to be mindful not to take on others’ pain as if it were my own.

My mom goes to church at St. James, where the tragedy happened. She had been to noon mass yesterday and gave us the recap over dinner last night. “Father Francis’s eyes were very red. He looked so tired,” she started off. “He must be under so much stress. His sermon was very good. He talked about what happened. There had been a thousand people at the Christmas concert that night.”

I put my fork down, swallowed my bite of ravioli, and told her, “I noticed on my way over here that the shrine of flowers is gone. I thought that was very strange that they would remove it.” I was referring to the sidewalk in front of the church where mourners had left bouquets of flowers and teddy bears and candles. Collections of mementos like these serve as a public sympathy card and the bigger the pile of flowers and bears—the more signatures squeezed onto the card, so to speak—the more people care. (Newtown had so many flowers and teddy bears they had to hire moving trucks and warehouse space.)

“No, it’s still there. They had to move it,” my mom said. “It got so big it was blocking the sidewalk and people were having to stand in the street. With all the traffic it was too dangerous. They moved all the flowers to the church steps so people would also have a place to sit. The priest talked about it. He told a story about a florist who delivered a professional flower arrangement someone had sent. She wasn’t sure where to leave it as she had never been asked to deliver flowers to a street before. She was really choked up by it and Father Francis had to console her. He was already consoling all his parishioners, and he was grieving himself, but he gave the florist a hug.” My mom smiled warmly as she retold the story.

“I keep thinking about the woman driver,” I said. “I can’t believe she pleaded not-guilty.” The arraignment had been on Friday. “Why couldn’t she have said ‘Yes, I caused this. I am so very, very sorry. I accept the consequences of my actions.’ Why couldn’t she just be honest?”

Why can’t people admit fault? Why was her lawyer telling her not to speak? Instead he spoke for her, shooting poison arrows at empty excuses like, ‘Her brakes might have failed’ and ‘Her prescription medication might have been off.” Why do we have a legal system that doesn’t allow for integrity? If she could have simply said, “I’m sorry,” wouldn’t that help everyone in the aftermath? Wouldn’t that allow the families of the victims to move forward in their grieving process instead of being dragged down with legal battles? Wouldn’t the driver then be able to also move forward with her own life, a life that no matter how she pleads is forever changed. Whether in prison or free, she will carry the burden of ending four lives and altering the lives of countless others in that irreversible act, that one disastrous moment. At least one can hope she is cognizant enough to recognize how far-reaching and fatal the situation.

As if reading my ongoing thoughts, my mom continued, “Father Francis also preached about forgiveness. He even mentioned the driver by name: Margo.”


Forgiveness. Yes. Bad things happen. This Christmas carol crash happened. Sandy Hook happened. Marcus’s ill-formed heart causing a ruptured aorta happened. Daisy’s coyote attack happened. But the priest is right. The only path to compassion, the only real way to heal, is to forgive. And to accept that death, no matter how untimely or how tragic, will always, always, always be a part of life.

I’m going to drive over to St. James Church this afternoon (before I go over to my parents for dinner.) I’m bringing flowers and candles. My offerings may be less impactful or nourishing than the 250 apple pies we delivered to Newtown, but nothing could be greater or more well meaning than the prayer of love and forgiveness in my heart.

NOTE: St. James Church has set up a victims fund for the families. Click here to help:  https://donations.la-archdiocese.org/sjvf/