Today marks the second time in seven years that I’m not participating in the KCRW Good Food Pie contest. Several people have asked why, and the answer is fairly simple: it feels insincere to bake a pie just for a contest if I’m not baking regularly.
In years past, the contest was something I worked toward. Pie baking was a part-time job, it was a holiday business, it was a ticket to housewarming success. I made pies in other states and in other countries. Recently, my pie-making has fallen off and I did not want this contest to become a box I checked off on my year end To Do list. I want it to mean more. In the same way that I train to run races, I want this to be an event I actively compete in, not one I merely pay the entry fee for and show up.
In years past, I did treat it more as a fun run than a race. In those, I still had good showings. I baked a chocolate banana cream pie, a chai cream pie, a chocolate pecan pie, a pumpkin cream pie with pistachio crust, and a mango black and blueberry pie. People came, they ate, they smiled. Pie tends to have that effect on people, and it’s one of the reasons I love it so much.
This year, though, I haven’t really baked anything, which is hard to admit, given how closely I align myself with baking, and with pie. I’m struggling now to remember the last pie I baked. So it’s with this uneasiness that I opted out of the main event, figuring that my relationship with pie, ostensibly such a simple baked confection, needed work.
Yesterday presented an opportunity – a friend’s annual fall party – to get back to the roots of what baking means to me. I shook off the rust to make the rustic (read: slightly misshapen) inverted apple pies, or, apples pies that are baked inside apples (see below) and served up a dozen of them to a group of seasonal snack aficionados. They’re a twist on a version I’d made a few years ago for my brother’s going-away barbecue in New York that had the crust baked in a muffin dish and then dropped into an uncooked, cored-out apple, and dotted with candied walnuts. Both allow for the delightful sensation of taking a great big crunchy bite of pie. Talk about mouthfeel!
I don’t mean to belabor the point of pie, since it’s really not that complex. Pie is carefree and fun and communal and messy. I’ve known that. The point for me now is recognizing that the feeling with baking that I thought I had lost is actually one I might just have forgotten. Getting the pie groove back is as simple as revisiting a few tried-and-true ideas, discovering a few bold new ones, making a giant mess in the kitchen, and inviting people over to enjoy.
Come one, come all – there’ll be pie here all fall.