My theory is that the world needs more pie. If everyone baked more pies, gave more pies away, or just ate more pie, the world would be a better place. This theory is a little bit akin to Robert Fulghum’s advice in “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,” in which he suggests taking naps and eating milk and cookies. Yes, cookies – or pie – might help us achieve world peace. I put my theory to the test a few years ago while living in Malibu. (This was the year of my pie-baking-sabbatical, but more about that later.) Ken was my grumpy landlord. So grumpy that I thought I’d try to shower some happiness on him with a Peach Crumble Pie.
The man lives on a scenic acreage, has the company of four Labrador retrievers and a parrot, drives a Porsche, makes a small fortune working as a set designer in the film industry, and made even more money off my rent (I paid $1000 a month for a guest house studio (a converted garage). All this and still he spent his days being mean and miserable.
I had just gone through a messy break-up with my live-in boyfriend who turned out to be a pathological liar and stuck me with the rent. Ken knew I was in dire straits, broken-hearted (as much as one can be when they find out the person they thought they loved wasn’t who he said he was). And he knew I was making a humble (at $7.50 an hour, humble is an understatement) living as a pie baker in pricey Malibu. I had to deliver the news to Ken that I would have to break my lease as I could not afford the place on my own. Ah, but compassion was not one of Ken’s finer traits. He became angry and told me he could sue me for the remainder of the year’s rent and that he would hold me responsible for finding someone new to take over my lease. Being the sensitive – and conditioned – female that I am, I apologized profusely and took on the guilt he so freely handed over to me. Double whammy. The boyfriend bails and the landlord punishes me.
After feeling bad for a day I remembered some advice from my friend, Kathy: “When you’re feeling blue do something nice for someone else.” I had to dig a little deeper than usual to do something nice for Ken. And what better time than to employ my The-World-Needs-More-Pie philosophy. Thus, I baked him the peach crumble. It was summer, the peaches were juicy and ripe, and, as Mary, my employer and pie-baking mentor always said, “You can’t go wrong with brown sugar and butter.”
With the pie heaping high and still warm in its white bakery box, I stood at Ken’s door. I held my breath, reasoning if he wasn’t home I would just leave it on his doorstep with a note inside the box – and hope that his dogs didn’t eat it. I had already written the note – on my special note paper that said “Fairy Godmother.” It read, “Sorry for all the trouble. Please accept my apologies and enjoy the pie.” I signed it and drew a big smiley face on it. Charming? Yes. Brown nosing? Absolutely. Genuine? Yes, but with effort for such an uncompromising man.
I knocked. He answered.
“This is for you,” I said.
“Oh,” was his complete reply. “Thank you” didn’t seem to be words in his vocabulary.
I backed away and turned toward my studio on the other side of his driveway. Nothing more was said. My job was done. And Ken, and the world, I hoped, might be just a little better off for it.
A few days later I saw him in the driveway when I was pulling away in my VW Beetle and he managed to mumble the words, “The pie was, um, good.”
Ken the curmudgeon. Maybe, even if just for a moment, when that bite of handmade, flaky dough melted on his tongue and he licked the sweetness of those fresh, soft peaches off his lips he might have felt, dare I venture to guess, a little happy. I have since dubbed the pie the Peach Grumble Pie. As for me, I got my security deposit back, moved to Portland, and married a man who always tells the truth.