Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Holy Grail

No, not that Holy Grail, the other Holy Grail - the search for the perfect piece of pie. That's my quest and I"m stickin' to it!

I loved my father alot but the truth was that my stepfather and I were simply terrific "compadres". Intellectual sparring was a favorite hobby of his and he had a wicked sense of humor. He also loved a good smart aleck and I qualified in his book. I am grateful he was was such a good grandpa to my children since my own father lived 1,000 miles away.

I can still seem him standing in my kitchen cooking his famous chicken and dumplings while a tornado raged outside. Patio furniture was flying past the kitchen window and I was frantically trying to herd the kids and grandpa into the basement. This proved to be more difficult that you'd imagine. My son was standing in front of the patio door screaming at the sight of airborne furniture and grandpa was hobbling/hopping as fast as he could. You see, grandpa only had one leg! When he was 12 years old he'd slipped and fell into a thresher during harvest on the farm. I simply cannot imagine the terror his mother felt when a farm hand ran into the house with news of the accident. I was feeling my own terror at the thought of losing him to a tornado!


For a grandpa a wooden leg could be an endless source of amazement for children and trickery for him. He'd tell the kids, "Knock on my knee." The first time they'd knock their eye would get as big as saucers, and let's not even talk about taking off the entire leg! He felt that qualified as entertainment for young 'ens.

Grandpa Bill qualified as a "character" and anyone that knows me knows that I love & collect characters. Traveling with him could be trying at times because he insisted on stopping every few hours. Once in mid-morning for coffee and pie, then for lunch & more pie. Midafternoon there was a pit stop for ..... you guessed it, coffee & MORE PIE!! His avowed mission in life was to find the perfect piece of pie.

I agreed that it was a pretty important mission in life, and when Grandpa Bill died I took up the torch. Yep....that's now my find the perfect piece of pie! Of course opinions on this are heated and subjective. I, for example, am not a lover of berry pies except for the fantabulous delicacy known as Blackberry Pie not to be confused with Blackbird Pie.

There are a few that have come close to perfection and I've got them at the top of my list. This cute person is Paula Haney, otherwise known as "Hoosier Mama" and she's the pastry chef/owner of Hoosier Mama Pie Company.(I hope she doesn't mind me referring to her as "cute" but she WAS cute and friendly and enthusiastic. And anyway, someone who thinks up such a terrific name as "Hoosier Mama" has got to be cute!)


I encountered her at the Chicago Fancy Food show a couple years back. WOW...her pecan pie was the best I've ever tasted (she uses some maple syrup). Best in Show for Pecan Pie...that's my award for her. She doesn't have a storefront, she bakes and sells to restaurants in the Chicago area, or you can also order online and pick one up. Be sure to click on all the links there's some interesting stuff in there.

Number two in the list of contenders is the Sawdust Pie at Patti's 1880's Settlement in Kentucky. It's just delicious, a take-off on pecan pie. Hmmmm, do we see a pattern emerging?

Here's the recipe for Patti's Sawdust Pie. This blog entry is very long or I would post picture of the entire process, but that's not really necessary since you're big girls and can figure it out.


Fortunately I'm not alone in my quest. My former publisher told me there's someone at the New York Times who has taken up the torch and retired couple Bill & Barbara Windsor who traveled 29,000 miles, eaten 181 slices and produce the Pie Report.

So, don't go thinking we're done with this subject. We're going to be revisiting pies again and again.


Warm Pie, Happy Home

DON'T FORGET - Tomorrow we take another ride on the Way Back Machine.


Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

I love "Warm Pie, Happy Home." Wish that Ruthann had the opportunity to blog more often!

The perfect pie...hmmm, for me, that would be blueberry pie, which I often request instead of birthday cake. A good pecan pie is nothing to turn one's nose up at either. So the recipe that you provide is going to get snagged.

So that's Hoosier Mama! What a great name and, you're right, she's cute!

Reading about another of your characters was a lot of fun. I was right there in the kitchen with you watching the patio furniture blow by. :D

GemStateMom said...

I love diversity in my pies...berry, custard, them all. But what makes or breaks any pie, for me, is the crust. It's gotta be flaky, melt-in-your mouth tender, not soggy, not tough, with good flavor.

Alas, since I abandoned the Three White Deaths (white shortening, white flower, white sugar) 10+ years ago, I have been laboring to create a satisfactory pie crust. While I love the wholesome nutty flavor of whole-wheat crust, it is simply NOT tender enough! My quest continues.

Good luck with your search for perfection, and I beg you to keep a 'crusty eye' open and let me know if you find something noteworthy! :)

Abbie said...

Hi suzanne!
What a fabulous story about your stepfather.. he sounds like an amazing man! :) We have pretty good pie in these parts.. there is a local man, who started selling his pies out of a shack on the side of the road, now he has a business that extends through most of New England. The Pie Guy. I don't know if he has a website, but his pies are AMAZING! We can get them right at our local grocery store, and most of the local restaurants sell them. My DH love lemon merangue, (sorry about the spelling!) but for me, I have to go with apple. Plain ol' apple.
Have a fabulous Sunday!

Bax said...

I'm a pie girl. Love, love, love pies! I don't have a favorite, but growing up my mom would make a pie out of anything. She'd make raisin pie (my favorite as a child) and even gooseberry pie. Not to mention delicious rhubarb pie! If it was growing in her backyard, she'd make a pie out of it! LOL!