Saturday, September 27, 2008

A Visit to Malibu & My Old Pie Baking Store

Remember how the pecan tree inside the house had to be stripped of its leaves due to a fungus? Turns out the problem was MUCH more pervasive. We discovered a serious mold problem, waking up each morning to new growth in places like our shoes in the closet and even under the bed! Adding to the stress, our neighbors told us this is a pre-existing condition that drove the previous tenants out, all of which was conveniently denied by our landlords. My husband saw how the situation was affecting me -- as in I WAS GOING OUT OF MY FUCKING MIND -- so he bought me a plane ticket to LA, thus allowing me to escape the construction crew subsequently descending on our otherwise peaceful casa. I use the term "construction" lightly as the landlord's mold removal technique is "just paint over it." Viva Mexico.
So, here I am in sunny Southern California for a couple of weeks at the beach. (I'll take smog over mold any day!) I took a drive up to Malibu yesterday to visit my old pie baking place--Malibu Kitchen--but things are just not the same... Mainly, there was no pie! Okay, so they had these little lemon tarts and apple bars. But as closely related as these may be to pie, these don't provoke the same warm, soothing sentiments as a whole pie! They do have some impressive cakes--and, if you look closely, you will see their prices are impressive too. $60 for one cake. Ouch. Welcome to Malibu. (My handmade pies used to sell for $20--a bargain considering the work and care that went into each one.)
The other thing that has changed since I worked there (in 2000 to 2001) is the name. It used to be called Mary's Kitchen, because Mary Spellman was a partner. Mary, who is one of the most nurturing and loving people I know (she was my pie mentor), hails from The Hampton's on Long Island and was persuaded to switch coasts and open up this gourmet deli/bakery with Bill Miller (pictured below). But Bill is not exactly a warm and fuzzy person. Not only was he cruel to Mary (which sent her packing back to New York), he has a reputation of being extremely rude to his customers. In fact, he YELLED at me to stop taking pictures of his baked goods, and I almost started crying. I took a breath, turned around and stated firmly, "It's me, Bill. Beth." That didn't stop him from continuing his reprimand.
Well, that made me decide against buying ANYTHING in his store. And, in fact, I won't bother to go back again. The next time I want to revisit my Malibu pie baking days I'll go to The Hamptons to see Mary.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Pietopia in Portland

Speaking of pie contests, I just received a letter and news clipping from a friend in Portland (where we lived before moving to Mexico). The article, from The Oregonian newspaper, was about a pie contest. Contestants wrote 300-word essays about what kind of pie would best describe the way they were feeling right now--with their recipes included. Winners brought their pies to a farmer's market for passersby to get free pie. Free!
The woman who had the BRILLIANT idea to create this is Tricia Martin who says, "I wanted a creative way to bring people together through taste" and "The great thing about pie is its cross-generational appeal." Yes! I couldn't agree more.
This made me so homesick for Portland--for missing the contest, and for all those berries I didn't get to pick this year--that I might have to make one of the contest-winner recipes listed on her Pietopia blog--the "Homesick for Miami" pie. OK, Miami is as far as you can get from Portland, but maybe it would still work.
I love seeing this--this creativity, generosity, and homespun comfort in action that pulls a community together. It gives me hope that the world isn't completely going to hell.