"Give a Piece a Chance." — Books. Blog. Pie Classes. And a Pinch of Activism.

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Be a Lighthouse Like Patti

(This essay originally aired on Tri States Public Radio. Click here to listen.) Grief has struck again. I just lost my closest friend in Iowa, Patti Durflinger, to cancer. I was by no means Patti’s only close friend, she was a good and true friend to countless others. She was also a wife, a mother, … Read more

How I Learned to Love Women’s Basketball

This essay aired on Tri States Public Radio on March 13. Listen here. I’ve never been a fan of basketball. I don’t like the screech of tennis shoes on the wood floor and the cacophony of whistles and buzzers echoing in the arena. My disdain for basketball has remained fully intact my entire life until … Read more

RAGBRAI: 500 Miles of Pie Across Iowa

We are making a documentary film called “Pieowa about the obsession with pie in Iowa. Really. People are so obsessed with pie they will ride their bikes 500 miles, braving sweltering heat and headwinds over 7 days, just so they can eat it every day! As part of the film we will be covering this event, called RAGBRAI (the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa, now in its 50th year!) and the multitude of pies along the route. We’ve identified 36 pie vendors (LISTED BELOW) but surely there are more. Sounds like a lot? Not when you consider there are 30,000 hungry people on bikes to feed. We will be following teams like TEAM NPR (aka No Pie Refused, veteran reporters from National Public Radio riding for their 10th year), TEAM PIE HUNTER (you can spot them by the giant pieces of pie they’re wearing on their heads, each one a different kind of pie), TEAM PIEORITIES (guess what their priorities are), and TEAM CHERRY (sisters paying homage to the cherry tree in their childhood backyard and thus their favorite pie.) There’s also “Dr. Pie,” a veterinarian from Indiana riding for the 14th time whose bike jersey touts “Pedaling for a Piece.” “Six pieces a day is my limit,” he told me. “Seven is too many.”

Want to be in the film? Come find us at the designated locations (highlighted in RED below) to share your pie story on camera. Or go to https://theworldneedsmorepie.com/pieowa/ and follow the prompts to upload your own pie-related video.

If you are participating in RAGBRAI, let us know about other pie vendors you found during the ride. Tell us how many pies you ate, what your favorites were, and how pie enhanced your RAGBRAI experience. Email us at [email protected]


  • DAY ONE: Sunday – Sioux City to Storm Lake – 5 pie locations
    • Kingsley
      • Salem Lutheran church stand, 2 blocks up main street. Proceeds go to the Food  Bank of Siouxland and local schools Packback food programs.
    • Washta
      • Washta Fire Department
    • Quimby
      • Community Center, 7 organizations uniting to make pies (WE ARE FILMING HERE)
    • Storm Lake
      • United Methodist Church. 212 E 3rd St., serving pie with supper
      • Columbus Club Hall, 1507 E Lakeshore Dr, Storm Lake. Pie served at spaghetti dinner.
  • DAY TWO: Monday – Storm Lake to Carroll – 6 pie locations
    • Lake View
      • All 3 churches in Lake View (Emmanuel, UCC and Methodist) combining efforts. On Main Street.
      • Wall Lake Lions Club
    • Breda
      • Kay’s Korner, 201 Main St. (WE ARE FILMING HERE)
      • Breda Golf Club
    • Carroll
      • Renew Covenant Church, 601 N Main Street (on the corner of Main and Hwy 30)
      • Central Church of Carroll, 712 Quint Ave.
  • DAY THREE: Tuesday – Carroll to Ames – 7 pie locations
    • Glidden
      • DeAnn’s Sweets & Tees
      • Merle Hay American Legion Post #386 and the Legion Auxiliary
    • Rippey
      • Home Slice Pie (with Iowa Beer Bus), 310 Main Street, Rippey * (WE ARE FILMING HERE)
      • Pies and Pastries by Lana — in vendor area *
      • Methodist Church, 103 W. Main St.
    • Luther
      • Whatcha Smokin, 403 Iowa Ave.
    • Ames
      • First United Methodist Church, 516 Kellogg Ave. Hamballs dinner with church lady pies (or bars). 4PM – 7PM (WE ARE FILMING HERE)
  • DAY FOUR: Wednesday – Ames to Des Moines – 7 pie locations
    • Slater
      • Helping Hands of Slater, 416 Main St.
    • Madrid
      • Home Slice Pie (with Iowa Beer Bus) 2111-330th St. *
      • St. Paul’s Church
      • Pies and Pastries by Lana *
      • Once Upon an Apple Pie, Flat Tire Lounge, just off high trestle trail *
    • Polk City
      • Center Grove Orchards, vendor booths #16 and 17
    • Des Moines
      • Pie Mates Australian Bakehouse at Confluence Brewery, 1235 Thomas Beck Rd., 11AM to 9PM. (Meat-filled hand pies.) *
  • DAY FIVE: Thursday – Des Moines to Tama-Toledo – 8 pie locations
    • Altoona
      • Pie Mates Australian Bakehouse at Spring Creek Sports Complex, 7600 NE 38th Ave. from 5AM to noon. (Meat-filled hand pies.) *
    • Colfax
      • Christian Church, 101 N. Locust St.
    • Kellogg
      • Amboy Grange and First Christian Church, 220 High Street (vendor booth)
    • Grinnell
      • United Methodist Church, in Central Park
    • Montour (10 Miles before Tama-Toledo)
      • Amish pies
    • Tama-Toledo
      • St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, 700 Harmon, Tama
      • The Iowa Pie Lady, Laura Bru, starting at 2PM, set up in park in Toledo. *
  • DAY SIX: Friday – Tama-Toleda to Coralville – 3 pie locations
    • Chelsea
      • Iowa Fruit Pies vendor (as well as local non-profits) selling pie, 303 Station St.
    • Amana
      • Amana Fire Dept., 2725 K St.
    • Oxford
      • Oxford Fire Station (pies made by St. Mary’s Catholic Church)
  • DAY SEVEN: Saturday – Coralville to Davenport – 1 pie location
    • Muscatine
      • Combined churches — Pie concession stand, The Red Brick Building (waterfront)

Look for an article about “The Pie Trail of RAGBRAI” in the Des Moines Register on Sunday, July 23.

Pie vs. Cake: Bake BOTH to Support Mental Health

Valerie Van Galder is the creator of the Depressed Cake Shop. Cake may not be pie, but I’m a fan of anything that’s baked for a greater good. The DCS website, which is beautifully designed, reads, “Research has shown that baking is a pursuit that fits a type of therapy known as behavioral activation. Psychologists … Read more

The Power of One Pie

“Pie makes people happy.” Especially this one.

Allison Engel is a playwright, a journalist, a political activist, a communications director, and so much more. She’s a force! (Read her bio and you’ll see what I mean.) We have a lot of writer friends in common because she lived part-time in Iowa, but she was also living part-time in LA, so when I was in California last year I reached out to her. We met for lunch and had a great conversation; I was glad I made the effort to connect. (Never hesitate to email someone you admire.)

A lot can happen in a year. Allison lost her husband to cancer and moved to Pasadena full-time after his death to be closer to her daughter.

In my sympathy card, I had written that I wished I could bring her a pie. So when I was back in LA a few weeks ago, and we made plans to meet for lunch, I knew what I had to do.

The apple pie was still warm when I got the restaurant and she thanked me for it. But then I told her, “There’s one condition—you have to share it with someone.”

We talked for nearly three hours—I remember this because I was worried about getting a parking ticket. I didn’t care. Spending time together was worth more than whatever the ticket might cost. (I didn’t get one.)

Allison sent me several emails after our lunch. The first one said, “I am still gobsmacked that you made me a pie. That’s a first in my 71 years. It’s so beautiful. I took a photo of it and am going to have a slice for breakfast and share it with my new neighbors.”

The second one said, “This pie is so, so good. The crust is amazing. I am a very critical pie-eater, and this is one of the tops in my pantheon of all-time favorites.”

But her last email was by far the best. “I took pieces of pie next door to my new neighbors (they are renovating their unit), and they had gone back to the East Coast, but all their workmen were there. So I shared the rest of the pie with four tile-setters and painters, and they LOVED it. They were pretty incredulous that this amazing treat just appeared at the work site. Their English was limited, as was my Spanish, but the pie was the only language we needed.”

My reply was this: “I cried when I read your email this morning. I was at my mom’s and I told her about it, and she teared up too! THIS is world peace (piece) in action!!!! This is the magic of pie and you experienced it firsthand. I’m tearing up again as I write this. Remember our conversation over lunch, when I was saying I don’t really know how to measure success—is it a certain number of book sales? Is it making the bestseller lists? No, THIS is the measure of success. You, the workmen, the pie, period. Success is measured in kindness. Seriously, I still want to cry because this is choking me up so much.”

I once took a photo of a sign that read, “Never stifle a generous impulse.” To that I would add: Never underestimate the power of a small gesture, like baking someone a pie. You never know how far the ripples will reach.

Diary of a Book Launch: Vulnerability and Trust

My official book launch date for World Piece is tomorrow, September 21, International Day of Peace. That said, the book has already been available for about a week, thus the release has been a slow roll-out versus a singular moment—a tide coming in instead of a wave crashing on the sand. Unfortunately, it doesn’t make … Read more

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 … Read more

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 … Read more