Saturday, November 12, 2011

Guest Blog: Pie Lady Goes South, Part 2 - by H



The Pie Lady Visits the Mountain South -- (Part 2) – as told by H

If you replaced “banjo” with “gunshots” this would perfectly represent Beth’s sentiments about hiking in these parts. It’s the height of deer season here in Georgia, and at times it sounds like the civil war is still ongoing. Although Beth and I share our Midwestern roots (Beth Iowa, me Ohio), I have lived south of the Mason-Dixon line for over 20 years, and I am well acquainted with the Southern Appalachians. I even lived in Top O’World Tennessee at one point, a place where a neighbor once showed up at my door with a large jar of canned bear meat.

Beth however, (in-spite of her many world travels) is pretty much a neophyte in Dixie. She gaped in slack-jawed horror at the 30-foot-long confederate flag waving in the breeze over the local Rebel Market and gas station. I explained that the owner of this establishment would likely explain to her that the flag is an expression of “heritage not hate,” but to say that she remained unconvinced would be a notable understatement...

But...Beth is quickly finding that there are good as well as gun-toting rebel elements in N. GA. Yesterday I took her to breakfast at a place I was clued into by a local several years ago. It’s a small country store with a restaurant of sorts tucked back into one corner. One GOB (good ole boy) cooks and serves. If you do something silly like not ordering any meat, he’ll put some of his homemade sausage on your plate anyway. And you don’t get a ticket when you’re finished, you just amble over to the cash register and tell the lady what all it was that you ate and drank. Beth was dubious when I set a plate down in front of her that contained a huge halved biscuit smothered in gravy, two fried eggs and a piece of sausage.
But now? Now she is asking me when we are going back.

She is not, however, asking me when we are coming back to this particular cabin. This cabin affords privacy and a nice view but it has some notable drawbacks. One would be a death defying road that leads up to the place. It’s steep enough to be a bobsled run, has places with ruts big enough to swallow a SMART car whole, and has a blind hill that the stars of the FUEL TV series “Thrillbillies” would shirk in terror from. And if you survive the road up here, there is an equally deadly feature that awaits you inside of the cabin. Through reading the cabin guest book, we found that this wooden horror has a name. Behold, the Stairs of Death...
If you’ve ever been to the amusement park Cedar Point in Ohio, just think of the ride named “Demon Drop” as this is merely a non-mechanical version of it.

There is another feature of this cabin that while not dangerous, is nonetheless somewhat horrifying: the décor. One family wrote in the guest book that they tried for days to count all of the assorted bears inside the cabin, but it was simply too exhausting and mind numbing. After about 5 minutes on the inside, Beth declared, “No, I can’t take it” and proceeded to apprehend armloads of stuffed bears, bear statues and a moose or two and jam them into closets. We have one closet that now looks like a décor bear version of Gitmo. They will stay incarcerated until freed by the cleaning service after our departure.

But today it is sunny and nice and we are going horseback riding in the mountains. We may not make it back up the road to the cabin, but up until that point it will be a great day.

Note to readers: Daisy is doing much better. We will probably leave here a day or two early so she can be part of the early release program at the kennel.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Guest Blog: Pie Lady Goes South, Part 1 - by H

The Pie Lady visits the Mountain South 
(Part 1) – as told by H

It was a decidedly rough start to this adventure, as the days immediately before departing on this trip were rough ones for Beth. Her cartoon character terrier Daisy had surgery, was sick afterward, and had to be left in the care of a veterinarian the day before we left. Although the care, rest and limited activity afforded by lodging at the vet’s office was a good option for a post-surgery dog, leaving a dog for over a week (especially an ailing dog) is anathema to Beth’s constitution. It was traumatic with a capital T, as Beth is one of the dog-lovingest individuals anywhere on the planet. A sick Daisy meant that Beth got little sleep in the days before we headed south, so she was stressed and sleep deprived when it came time for our Sunday morning departure. We discussed not going at all, but the cabin was already paid for, and Beth rallied enough to get herself, me, Jack (terrier), Miska (Chow), Naf-Naf (guinea pig) into my car and onto the road.

Twelve hours in the car wasn’t exactly what Beth needed on that particular Sunday, but we both survived the trip, aided by listening to old radio episodes of Suspense on XM Radio. I’ve wanted to take Beth to the South almost from the day I met her. Why, you ask? Because Beth is about as un-southern as a woman can get. The often uttered, “Woman, get me a beer” which is a staple request/order from men throughout Dixie, would be one of the quickest ways I can imagine to get an instantaneous “Fuck off” response from Beth. If I had to label her geographic/cultural makeup, it would be California Yankee. And “CY” is about as far afield from “MS” (Mountain South) as you can get. This is why I knew it would be both fun and amusing to take Beth to the Georgia mountains...

The Happy Chair

Upon arriving, Beth still need a bit of attitude adjustment, so on the banks of the Toccoa River, she was boosted up into the Happy Chair.

I mean, how can you not be happy looking at this scenery?
Beth already has an appreciation for the scenery and outdoor recreational opportunities here. But southern culture? If only I’d taken a picture of the look on her face when the GOB (good ole boy) asked another GOB in the grocery store if he’d shot anything yet. More on this later...

More AGH Video...And My Kohler Sink is the Star



My friend Jo Brown works for Kohler and when she found out I lived in the American Gothic House she suggested I might want an old-fashioned cast iron farm sink, a brand new top-of-the-line one made by Kohler. "Good for all your pie baking," she said.

"Yes, but only if you come down to see me when they install it," I insisted. I hadn't seen Jo in eight years. We had worked together at MSN.com as web producers. She and her husband John came to my wedding -- to the ceremony Marcus and I had on a farm outside of Seattle. (It was one of three ceremonies we had, ensuring we were thoroughly married.) Time marched on and with it came life changes. Jo and her husband had moved to Wisconsin and I moved, alone and grieving Marcus, to Iowa.
Jo did come down to Eldon, in late August after the gorgeous new sink was installed, and instead of my kitchen being a construction zone we were in full-blown pie-making mode for the Pitchfork Pie Stand. She pitched right in, rolling dough and peeling apples -- while her video crew shot footage of us using the new Kohler apron-front sink. It was a win-win: I got to spend time with Jo -- I was reminded of how much I loved her lightness of being, her easy laugh and her wisdom -- and she earned points with her bosses for scoring this great PR opp.
While I love, love, love, love, love my new Kohler sink, what I love even more is that this sink brought an old friend back into my life. We won't let eight more years go by without seeing each other again, of that I am certain.

Thanks again, Jo -- and thanks, Kohler.

Click here to see Jo's version of the story in her blog post on the Kohler website.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Seeing Orange: As in Pumpkin Pie

Since I know you've all been wondering (yeah, right) about how the Pumpkin Pie Palooza turned out, I am finally posting the pictures from the event. Yes, I realize it's been twelve days since my pie stand was open for that final day of the season. And yes, I realize I have posted nothing since then. I also realize time has marched on so far that the sunny Indian Summer days have given way to snow. Alas, since this blog is about pie and documenting my adventures based around "America's quintessential comfort food" and the Pumpkin Pie Palooza is about as pie-centric of a story as you can get, I figure better late than never.

So there we were, Saturday, October 29, on an unseasonably warm and sunny day...  It was so warm, in fact, we did something Iowa weather doesn't normally permit: we moved the pie stand outside into the side yard.

I baked all the pies myself this time -- all 50 of them. My trusty pie assistant, Dakota McElderry, had returned to high school and given that he wasn't available for the weekday prep, I found myself alone in the kitchen for the first time in many months. I had forgotten how much I like -- even prefer -- working solo. With my iPhone earbuds securely in place, my apron tied around my waist, and my rolling pin at the ready, I found my rhythm, the trance-like one that had soothed my broken heart during that first year after Marcus died. I had forgotten how moving quietly, methodically, peacefully around my workspace, dusting my table with flour, rolling out dough, whisking eggs by the bowlful -- and not barking orders at Dakota or whoever else was helping with the pie stand -- allowed me the space and the time for my thoughts to wander, my ideas to flow, my nerves to calm. It was luxurious. And it reminded me of how much I still love making pie. A lot of pie.

And then, after two and a half days of baking, the pies all made and set out for display, it was show time.
Shirley Stacey, Eldon's ace mayor (who was THANKFULLY  just re-elected
 for another term!) was one of my first customers of the day.
Seeing it was a Halloween-based event, I took the time to create a makeshift costume. What better fitting attire for the Pitchfork Pie Stand than a...why yes, a costume that revolves around a pitchfork. I got the devil horns and matching tail for a dollar each at the Dollar Store. Can't beat that!
The ever-helpful Dakota McElderry
Seeing it was a Saturday -- a school-free day -- Dakota was able to work at the pie stand. He borrowed my bottle of fake blood to fashion a little beard for himself -- as his costume. He also crafted a "scary" prop out of a pie box and stuck it on the end of a pitchfork. Which I thought was very clever.

We did not, however, send home customer pies in blood-covered boxes.

My costume had some competition from a toddler. I couldn't help but think of one of those celebrity magazines with the red carpet photos of actresses caught wearing the same dress (oh, the horror!), you know that photo-driven column, "Who Wore it Better." In this case, I'm sure the little guy would have won. Especially with the devilish mustache, beard and eyebrows drawn on his face. Why didn't I think of that?!

Costumes and decorations aside, it was still the pies -- pumpkin, apple and apple crumble -- that were the showcase of the day.

I had a surprise visit from a woman who goes to the same college I attended -- The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. A long way from (her) home, Sarah and her mom (who hails from Iowa) stopped by for a slice of pie and brought me a gift -- a vintage pie tin along with a needle-pointed logo of my alma mater, handcrafted by Sarah herself.


Last but not least, my BFF in Eldon, Patti, showed up late in the afternoon -- also in costume. She was dressed up as....me! She had the outfit wired, down to the pigtails and overalls (which she had had to borrow for the occasion). I laughed so hard I nearly cried. Should I have been flattered? I mean, she finished off the outfit with a witch's hat after all. Was she trying to tell me something?
Some of you asked if we had any leftover pie. Yes. A few pumpkin pies were left. And that made me very happy. Why? Because pumpkin pie freezes well, which means that for the past twelve days I've been able to have a rare stash on hand and indulge in my favorite food.

Really, I had such a good time with the Pumpkin Pie Palooza I'm wondering if I really can wait until Memorial Day to open up the pie stand again.

Pecan Pie Palooza anyone?