(Author’s note: This is not the typical sort of post you can expect to find in the future here on The Pie Academy blog. Those posts will focus primarily on pie making, while this one – by way of introductions – is more about the pie maker, me, and how I got here. That being the case, no hard feelings if you blow this one off entirely…)
In 1978, fresh off a 4-year stint in the Navy, I published my first cookbook – Good Food-Good Folks – a modest 48-page vegetarian paperback with cream colored stock, hideous yellow cover and hand-stapled binding.
What credentials to cookbook authorship I thought I had acquired now escapes me, but apparently it seemed like a good idea a the time: I did indeed love cooking for family and friends; I was an active member of a thriving long-hair food co-op; and I was employed at my family’s printing business in Plainfield, New Jersey with access to presses and darkrooms and the wherewithal to keep my costs in line by doing much of the work myself.
Even so, at $1.95 per copy retail, and given the time and expense of tooling around NJ hawking copies from the back of my olive green Ford Pinto, Good Food-Good Folks would hardly turn out to be a cash cow. (Several cases of the book, I suspect, remain hidden away in an abandoned Plainfield warehouse, slowly turning to dust.) Still, the experience did put some wind in my sails and set me on a course that would become my life’s work and passion.
Fast Forward 3+ Decades…
…13 cookbooks (2 others self-published), perhaps a thousand magazine articles and columns, hundreds of cooking classes and demonstrations, countless television and radio appearances, and one very fragile glass whisk – an IACP* Julia Child Cookbook Award that fell and shattered just moments after it was bestowed upon me by Julia herself back in 1993 – to the launch of this website devoted entirely to one subject: how to bake pies.
I have, in short, come back to my roots as a cook and baker with a penchant for self-publishing.
Only this time the landscape is very different than it was when I first started down this road 34 years ago. Computers and a little thing called the Internet changed the game forever, leveled the playing field, and provided all the tools someone like myself would need to reach a wide and (one hopes) receptive audience quickly and efficiently.
This, with a minimum of dead trees and driving around the countryside selling books on the fly.
It’s Not Your Mama’s Self-Publishing Anymore
To be sure, the New Self-Publishing is not without its challenges, especially for someone who spent the first 10 years of his writing career pounding away on a manual typewriter that weighed as much as your average rottweiler. For today’s Internet publisher there’s an entire new language to be learned, software to decipher.
There’s hardware – computers, drives, cameras, microphones, iPads and the like – that can leave you, by turns, in awe or in tears, depending on the hour and one’s facility with things technical. (My own facility is often less than facilitating.)
Somehow you muddle through. And when all else fails – and the technology leaves you stumped yet again – you go to YouTube, do a search, and you find -without exception – someone 40 years your junior who has put together a detailed tutorial on whatever knowledge eludes you. Sobering stuff.
So Let’s Make a Deal
My intention has been to make The Pie Academy “feel” as if you’d dropped by for a private lesson or attended one of my live classes or demonstrations. Those of you who have know that while I’m serious about my craft, I like to have a good time, too.
The plan is to create the atmosphere of an informal cooking school by way of written recipes, stories and instruction, product reviews, and copious video training.
I love video because seeing how something is done – be it rolling a pie dough or fluting an edge – is often the missing link to mastering a particular skill. I often use the example of tying your shoes: imagine how frustrating it would have been if you had to figure it out from written instructions, rather than having someone show and encourage you.
So, how’s this for a deal? I’ll do my best to show and encourage you to be a fabulous pie maker and supply the tools you need to become a pie-making legend or reasonable facsimile.
In return, I’ll kindly hope for your patience and support while I work out any kinks in the system and bulk up the site with irresistibly good content. Are we good?
If so, let the journey begin. And if you haven’t already, I hope you’ll enroll in The Pie Academy right away – there’s no charge – and start receiving my new video course, 7 Simple Ways to Build a Better Pie.
(*IACP is the International Association of Culinary Professionals)