A Life-Changing Pie Experience

Originally published on January 23, 2011 7:45 am
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LIANE HANSEN, host:

It's National Pie Day, in honor of what the American Pie Council calls America's favorite dessert. A fresh-baked, still-warm, sometimes ice-cream-topped pie is more than just an indulgence to Beth Howard. It changed her life. Beth Howard is a writer, blogger and, of course, a pie baker. Welcome to the program, Beth.

Ms. BETH HOWARD (Writer): Thank you, Liane. It's nice to be here.

HANSEN: What does pie mean to you?

Ms. HOWARD: Well, pie, first of all, means comfort and beyond comfort, sharing and simplicity. And I quit a high-tech dot-com job back in 2001 because I was just so tired of the technology and the stress and the virtual environments and just - pie seemed so grounding and tactile, and a way to sort of get back to my roots.

HANSEN: Your roots. I noticed the emails from you and with a signature - sent from my Pie Phone. Clearly you love what you do. What was it that got you into pie?

Ms. HOWARD: I first learned how to make pie when I was 17, when I got caught stealing apples from the orchard of an old man, a grumpy old guy. I was on a bicycle trip down the coast of Washington state - and got in trouble. And he turned out to be a pastry chef and invited us in, and taught us his craft. So that was where it all started. And then, like I said, after I quit the dot-com job, I turned to pie as this thing to sort of nurture me back to life.

And I baked pies in Malibu for a living - well, if you can call living in Malibu on minimum wage. It sure was a fun job.

HANSEN: Wow. I also understand that baking and sharing your pies has helped you through a difficult time recently. How so?

Ms. HOWARD: Well, my husband, Marcus, he died 16 months ago of a ruptured aorta, and it was a total shock. And I was pretty much unable to function for quite a few months. And then I was in Los Angeles, and I ran into a friend of a friend who said, I know that you have a blog. And she had worked in television, and she wanted to do a pie documentary.

So the two of us got together and did a television shoot. And that made me realize that I was onto something, that pie makes people happy. When you talk about pie, they just start smiling. And everybody has a pie story.

HANSEN: So how should one celebrate Pie Day?

Ms. HOWARD: I am a firm believer that when you do something nice for others, it makes you feel better yourself. And there are a lot of people out there suffering, and pie is the best way to cheer somebody up. I think everybody should just make a pie and give a slice away - or if you can't make your own pie, it doesn't matter, just let's go out and have a piece of pie and a cup of coffee. It's a way for people to spend time together, remember what's important in life.

HANSEN: Any advice for the novice pie baker?

Ms. HOWARD: Don't be afraid, don't be intimidated by pie dough. It's just having fun and relaxing, and knowing that it's not about perfection.

HANSEN: Beth Howard is a pie baker, writer, and author of the blog The World Needs More Pie. Happy Pie Day, Beth.

Ms. HOWARD: Thank you, Liane. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.