Move over, cupcake

So the latest food trend is (drumroll please). . . pie.

There’s a lady in Houston named Bella-Katherine Curtis who believes that nothing says love quite like a pie. The smell of a peach pie hot from the oven, made by mom’s or grandma’s hands, is a little slice of heaven, she said.

“There’s a joy knowing that someone made it just for you; someone loved you enough to make it,” said Curtis, owner of My Dee Dee’s Pie Shoppe. “It’s special. That’s what pies do. Cake is good but there’s something very special about pies.”

She’s right. And it’s about time pies got their day in the spotlight. Any monkey can make a cake from a mix and slap some canned frosting on it, but a homemade pie is special. Yes, you certainly can buy a crust and dump a can of gelatinous filling in it and call it done, but that’s not a real pie.

I grew up on homemade pie, and anyone who’s read this blog has heard me wax poetic about how great my mom’s pies were. Her coconut cream pie is the ultimate comfort food for me. Good day? Have some CC pie. Bad day? A piece of CC pie will make it better. Promotion? You earned a piece of CC pie. Car wreck? CC pie will help. 

Barb’s coconut cream pie was the real deal. Homemade crust (duh), made with flour, crisco, salt, and ice water. That woman could whip up and roll out a delicious pie crust faster than I could find the recipe in my cookbook.

The edges were always perfectly fluted, too. She said it was simple: just pinch the edge of the crust between your forefinger and thumb and presto! perfectly fluted.

I have perfectly good thumbs & forefingers, and I can certainly pinch crust between them, but mine never, ever looked like hers.

She made a lot of pies. Anytime she hosted a dinner party (which was often), the dessert would be pie. Anytime she went to a potluck, she’d bring a pie. Usually two. Any family gathering featured, you guessed it, Barb’s pie.

She gave me several pie-making lessons, and I did not excel. She would tell me to handle the dough lightly; too much or too firm and the crust wouldn’t be light & flaky. Frankly, I’d settle for light or flaky, without aspiring to both.

In her absence, I have tried to take over the pie-making. While I wouldn’t say it’s been an epic fail, it’s not been overwhelmingly successful, either. One Christmas Eve I attempted the old standard cherry pie. The crust was fussy that day, and the filling overflowed in the oven, so the finished product looked as if I’d dropped it from a tall building. If I hadn’t been so busy crying and cussing, I would have taken a picture, which I could then post here so everyone could laugh at me and that pitiful pie.

Curtis opened her pie shop in October 1992, rolling out 29 pies on her first day in business. Guess what? she sold them all. Today she’s known as “The Pie Lady.” My mom is smiling about that right now.

Anyone who knows anything about pie knows it’s all about the crust. Curtis says that crust is literally the pie’s foundation. Good pie bakers know that without a good crust, pie is a waste of calories.

“When you bake a pie you have to make a crust and take care of it,” said Curtis whose crust is her mother’s recipe. “Then, of course, you have a filling. There are many steps to pie, and it can make a big mess in the kitchen. It’s a lot more challenging than making a cake. It takes more work. But it’s worth it. A pie says more.”

She’s right. A pie does say more. It says, eat me now!!

But Curtis worries that old-fashioned pie baking might become a lost art. “In another generation it might be totally lost,” she said. “There are so few people out there who make scratch pies.”

I’m trying, Ms. Curtis, I’m trying.

Read about how much better she is than I at making pies here: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/life/food/7386674.html

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2 Comments on “Move over, cupcake”

  1. Jody Hicks says:

    The first time we met your mom was when we came to Tulsa for your wedding, and she and your dad invited all the Hickses over for dinner. I don’t remember what she served, just that it was really good, but I can still taste that heavenly coconut cream pie she made for dessert. I had never had a homemade pie, much less one that looked and tasted like that one – and I don’t recall ever having one as good ever since. Thanks for reviving a very good memory.

  2. Ed says:

    You reminded me of an article I read last fall. The title is “Pie to Cupcake: Move Over”. There are some insanely good sounding ideas if you want to practice your pie crust some more. I’ll be your guinea pig.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/17/dining/17pies.html


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