Sharing Joy, One Slice at a Time

The holidays aren't over for this baker and author—not with National Pie Day upon us!

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Posted in , Jan 20, 2015

Beth Howard

The holidays are a time of family and friends coming together and sharing food and fun-loving times. Thanksgiving and Christmas may have come and gone but there is another lesser known holiday approaching, one that can not only bring us together but bring out the best in us without overstuffing our bellies or overspending on gifts. It’s National Pie Day on January 23.

Created in 1975 by Charlie Papazian, a school teacher who was so insistent on having pie instead of cake on his birthday, he registered the date on the Chase’s Calendar of Events and made it an official holiday, now promoted by the American Pie Council. But National Pie Day has grown way beyond a birthday or a favorite dessert, and it isn’t even just about pie. It’s about building community, making people happy, and, ultimately, making the world a better place. 

I know this because I am a pie maker. I quit a lucrative (and stressful) web-producing job to do a one-year pie-making sabbatical at a Malibu bakery, where—for minimum wage—the creative and tactile tasks restored my balance. The experience was worth every oven burn.

I went on to run the Pitchfork Pie Stand during the four years I lived in the famous American Gothic House in Iowa. (It became very popular as it was the perfect convergence of two great national icons). And last spring my cookbook, Ms. American Pie, was published, a guide to help others learn that same restorative salve I had found in baking—and in sharing—pie.

I celebrated National Pie Day one year by gathering five of my closest friends to spend an afternoon rolling dough and peeling apples, and baking 50 pies. We chatted and laughed as we arranged apple slices in the pie plates, sprinkled cinnamon, and crimped crusts.

I was so grateful to spend the time with people I cared about, though didn’t often get to see. But what made it so special is that we weren’t just hanging out having brunch or meeting for coffee. We were doing something productive, meaningful, purposeful.

The next day, we loaded all the pies into my camper and drove around Los Angeles handing out pie by the slice—for free—to anyone passing by. At first I was worried we wouldn’t find any pedestrians willing to take food from strangers—let alone find any pedestrians at all given everyone drives in LA—but my concerns were unfounded.

We stopped by a fire station and delivered pies to the crew on duty. They were thrilled and pounced on their plates, shoveling in bites as soon as everyone had been served their slice. They were very polite that way. Then we drove to Venice and found a shopping district with steady foot traffic. People asked us who was sponsoring us. “No one,” we replied. “We are just doing to this to make the world a better place.”

The common reply was, “This pie is so good, and what you are doing is so nice, it makes me want to do something nice for someone.” These responses were so heart-warming, so life-affirming, I had to fight back tears. All afternoon, people stopped and chatted with one another. Friendships were formed between strangers. It turned into one big cinnamon-scented love fest.

We handed out 400 slices of pie that day. That’s 400 happy people, and likely exponentially more, all because of that pie. It was one of the most powerful days of my life.

With National Pie Day approaching, I am looking ahead to what I might do this year. While I probably won’t be making 50 pies, I will certainly make at least one and find someone to share it with, maybe give it to someone who is having a bad time and needs some cheering up. Maybe I will just share it with my parents to show them how much I appreciate all they’ve done—and still do—to support me.

And while we don’t need a holiday as an excuse to make pie, having a set date is a good reminder to get out the rolling pins and mixing bowls. It’s a reminder of the value and rewards found in sharing that pie—with friends, with strangers, it doesn’t matter who. What matters is taking the time to connect with others, to give of ourselves in order to make others happy. That pie is such a good vehicle for doing that is, well, icing on the cake!

Try Beth's Apple Pie recipe at home!

Watch as Beth discusses National Pie day!

Ms. American Pie cover imageBeth Howard is the author of Making Piece: A Memoir of Love, Loss and Pie (Harlequin, 2012) and Ms. American Pie: Buttery Good Pie Recipes and Bold Tales from the American Gothic House (Race Point Publishing, 2014). Learn more about her books and keep up with the rest of her pie-related activities on her website, theworldneedsmorepie.com.

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