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

Teaching New Yorkers to Make Pie

I went to New York City last week to meet with my agent and book editor. Five months out from my book being published (pre-order hardcover here), we had a lot of planning to do for the publicity and book tour. Since moving to Eldon, Iowa — into the American Gothic House — over a year ago I’ve done surprisingly little travel, so it was a bit of a shock to the system to go…

from THIS…  (view from my living room)
…to THIS! (Times Square)
Union Square Farmers Market on a rainy day

But meeting with my book publishing team wasn’t the only thing on my NYC agenda. I stayed with my best friend from childhood, Nan, and she arranged for me to hold a pie-making class in her new West Village apartment. Ten women — all professional, highly successful New Yorkers — and I would be teaching them to how to make my signature, no-measure, “pie is not about perfection” apple pie! (Uh, yeah, good luck with that, right?)

I’ll take 30 pounds, please. Yes, you heard correctly.

First stop was the Union Square Farmers’ Market to buy apples. I admit to gasping at the prices. I mean, a buck fifty to two bucks a pound for apples when New York State is second only to Washington State in U.S. apple production? Shouldn’t these be around 50 cents a pound? Alas, this was no time for lamenting the prices. I was in Manhattan after all… Hello???? — The Big Apple! After I talked the seller down to $1.25 a pound, Nan and I loaded up 30 pounds of Granny Smiths into her “granny cart” to lug the produce one-mile home — on foot. (And you wonder why New Yorkers don’t get fat?!) After dropping off that load we made a second trip with the cart to get flour, sugar and butter at D’Agostino’s.

Nan loads up the shopping cart.

I traveled with only a carry-on bag so I couldn’t bring my pie supplies, baking essentials that include rolling pins, large mixing bowls, Chop ‘n Scoops (pastry scrapers) and paring knives. Hell, I couldn’t even bring aprons. Good thing these New Yorkers didn’t mind getting flour on their designer jeans. Good thing that a big part of what I teach is this: Pie is about improvisation

We improvised alright. We used whatever bowls we could dig out of Nan’s moving boxes, took turns with the knives, and gathered our empty wine bottles to use as rolling pins. This meant we had to drink fast to get ten rolling pins. Ahem!

Nan’s apartment is huge by New York standards with more square footage than the American Gothic House and a kitchen triple the size of mine. I’m not exaggerating. Case in point: ten of us were able to squeeze around the island. And yet, in spite of the concentration of Type-A personalities wedged together wielding wine bottles to roll their sticky pie dough, everyone worked together beautifully, seamlessly, happily.

And, as usual, listening to the lively banter, observing another crop of newborn pie bakers experience this pure and simple kind of happiness, in turn made me happy. I mean, here was a gathering of VPs, reality TV producers, book publishers, school teachers, children’s book author, actresses, and playwrights — people who might never meet each other — brought together by pie. Let’s just say, this palpable buzz made up for the shoe shopping and dining out time I gave up in order to teach this class.

Practicing what I preach: “Pie builds community. Pie is meant for sharing.”

That’s Eve Plumb — yes, “Jan Brady,” making her first pie!

Adding the final touches to the top crust.
Not surprisingly, these creative types got creative.

Deb Brody from Harlequin Nonfiction (my book publisher)
brushes her crust with an egg wash for a golden finish.

Admiring the finished pies. As usual, we had a 100 percent success rate!

H is for Holly Kowitt, children’s author. I snapped a shot of it to send to “my H”
who was back at the American Gothic House on dog-sitting duty.

No pie party would be complete without the Victory Shot.
Smile for the camera and say “We love pie!”

If every trip to New York goes as well as this one, I will go back as soon as possible. But next time, in order to avoid the red-wine hangover, I’ll bring a bigger suitcase so I can pack my own rolling pins.