Great Pies For a Good Cause

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Image Courtesy of Community Servings


As many of us settle into an annual case of pie panic, or are pushing back chairs after too much pumpkin and pecan, I have a trunk full of four perfect and beautiful pies--one apple, two pecan, two pumpkin. I only opted out of sweet potato.

Are these the best pies my family and friends--29, my cousin Jed, our genial host, informs me, down from the 32 my father mentioned when I saw him and my stepmother on Sunday--will ever have? Well, until next year, when I bring back more pies, all from different restaurants and bakeries. This year I plan to generously cut and serve three of the pies--and be very stingy with the the pecan one baked by Sofra, a new Turkish-themed bakery and restaurant whose chef, Ana Sortun, appeared in our video cooking her husband Chris Kurth's produce in her kitchen at Oleana restaurant. At Sofra, Maura Kilpatrick, her partner and pastry chef, makes pastries that are much too good, including chocolate-hazelnut baklava with cocoa honey; I can't wait to see what she does with pecans and (usually cloying, near-unbearable) corn syrup.

David Waters had the brilliant idea of tapping into America's collective fear of pie crusts, and I had a mandate never to make a pie again, at least not at Thanksgiving.

Milquetoast! you cry. Don't you know how to make a crust? Well, yes, I spent years as an obsessive, persistent pie crust maker, writing articles far more patient and and perfectionist than Choire Sicha's raucously funny "Stop Being A Wuss"pie-crust instructions this week. If my mother made pies every day for a month when she was first married to teach herself how, I could take many classes and make a crust nearly as light, and I documented my efforts in one of my first Atlantic columns. Every year I would dare my family, assembled at our Connecticut Thanksgiving, to say my late mother made a better pie crust (of course, she did).

But then David Waters had the brilliant idea of tapping into America's, or at least Boston's, collective fear of pie crusts, and I had a mandate never to make a pie again, at least not at Thanksgiving.

David, then head of fundraising for Community Servings, Boston's only home-delivered meals program for people homebound with AIDS and their families, thought that local restaurants and bakeries could donate pies that people too lazy or fearful--sorry, busy--to bake would happily pay for. Pie in the Sky, he said it should it be called. Proud pie crust bakers like me thought it an odd, marginal idea. Boy, was I wrong.

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Photo Courtesy of Community Servings

Today Pie in the Sky is one of our two most important fundraisers of the year--and as of the middle of Wednesday it had sold $420,000 worth of pies at $25 apiece, our biggest year ever. That's not just a lot of pies. It's dozens of restaurants, bakeries and, even more important, terrifically energetic and inventive volunteers who spend months marketing and organizing the mobilization that's just ending as I write. The event has come a long way from the days when I rented a station wagon to make emergency deliveries on the Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and called up large commercial bakers to twist their arms to supply pies at cost when our orders outran supplies.

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Corby Kummer's work in The Atlantic has established him as one of the most widely read, authoritative, and creative food writers in the United States. The San Francisco Examiner pronounced him "a dean among food writers in America." More

Corby Kummer's work in The Atlantic has established him as one of the most widely read, authoritative, and creative food writers in the United States. The San Francisco Examiner pronounced him "a dean among food writers in America." Julia Child once said, "I think he's a very good food writer. He really does his homework. As a reporter and a writer he takes his work very seriously." Kummer's 1990 Atlantic series about coffee was heralded by foodies and the general public alike. The response to his recommendations about coffees and coffee-makers was typical--suppliers scrambled to meet the demand. As Giorgio Deluca, co-founder of New York's epicurean grocery Dean & Deluca, says: "I can tell when Corby's pieces hit; the phone doesn't stop ringing." His book, The Joy of Coffee, based on his Atlantic series, was heralded by The New York Times as "the most definitive and engagingly written book on the subject to date." In nominating his work for a National Magazine Award (for which he became a finalist), the editors wrote: "Kummer treats food as if its preparation were something of a life sport: an activity to be pursued regularly and healthfully by knowledgeable people who demand quality." Kummer's book The Pleasures of Slow Food celebrates local artisans who raise and prepare the foods of their regions with the love and expertise that come only with generations of practice. Kummer was restaurant critic of New York Magazine in 1995 and 1996 and since 1997 has served as restaurant critic for Boston Magazine. He is also a frequent food commentator on television and radio. He was educated at Yale, immediately after which he came to The Atlantic. He is the recipient of five James Beard Journalism Awards, including the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award.

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