Your Heartwarming Pie Stories…and my Video Valentine

It’s Valentine’s Day and I can’t think of a better time to launch this new feature – Heartwarming Pie Stories – I first told you about last month.

Clearly, Pie Academy members love a good story. And you’re fond of sharing, because you took my message to heart and filled my inbox your pie reminiscences and recollections, stories of moms and dads, aunts and sisters, friends and children who shaped and influenced your love of pies and pie making.

It was wonderful to hear from you, and all I can say is keep those stories coming.

Here, then, are our first three Heartwarming Pie Stories, with many more to come. I hope you enjoy these short stories as much as I have. And as I mentioned in this post, each of these contributors will be receiving a beautiful 2014 calendar from The Old Farmer’s Almanac. Other contributors and winners will be announced soon.

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A Father’s Love and Legacy of Pie

In this touching story, Pie Academy member Marilyn Fishwick reminds us that it’s not always the women who foster a family’s treasured food traditions. 

Allen Horn…pie lover

Unlike most pie artists who were taught to make pie by a female member of the family, it was my dad – Allen Horn – who inspired my pie affection. He was the pie maker in the family, as my mother was just not interested in learning to do it.

From an early age, I learned to love eating pie, especially Huckleberry, at family gatherings on my father’s side of the family. We always traveled to dad’s childhood home, my grandparents’ house in Hood River, Oregon. A special treat coming home through Portland was to stop at a restaurant that specialized in pie and dad would treat us to a piece of pie.

I’m sure it was just an excuse to have some himself but I still remember eating pie with my dad and looking out over the city lights at night. Such a fond memory linked to pie and the love I have for my father.

On his 70th birthday I made fresh peach cobbler for a huge crowd and he got tears in his eyes when he saw it. He had been diagnosed with terminal cancer a few months before and we knew it was his last birthday with us. He has been gone for 18 years now but every time I make a pie, I think of dad. At his memorial service, we served PIE, of course.

—Marilyn Fishwick is a third generation Oregonian who feels blessed to have an abundance of local fresh fruit for pie making. A retired teacher, she and her husband, Phil, host an annual event they call Pie-a-palooza, an afternoon of conversation and homemade pies with their friends. 

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A Rookie Pie Maker Outshines the Farm Wives

Who says making an apple pie is difficult? Millie Ternasky provides proof that even a beginner – with some patient tutoring – can get it just right.

One day I received a phone call from my youngest son who had recently moved to Missouri. He told me that there was a festival in their new town to welcome the tourist season and one of the events would be a pie baking contest.

Greg stated that he wanted to enter that contest and all he needed was for me to tell him how to make my apple pie. I cautiously asked if he had ever made a pie; his answer was no, but I could just tell him how over the phone!

With patience and some doubt about this feat, I gave him step by step instructions for both crust and filling. There were many entrants in this pie event, mostly older farm women who were veteran pie makers.

Millie Ternasky – pie maker, hat lover

A few days later, I received another phone call with Greg excitedly telling me that he had won! The farmer wives asked how long he had been baking pies and he said, “Oh, this was my first one”.

—Pie Academy member Millie Ternasky has been baking pies for about 70 years; her sister taught her how. She says she is “retired from employment but not from Living.” She stays busy with family and friends and lives in the “very best” Senior Community in Loveland, Colorado. Her pie credentials are solid: she bakes pies for bake sales, once made 200-plus pies on weekends to sell at craft and antique shows, and – in 1999 – won a prize for her apple pie from the National Pie Council. If you hadn’t guessed, she loves hats.

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Nannie Tarter’s Rhubarb Pie

It’s taken 45 years of practice, but Sherry Tarter thinks she can finally make a crust as good as her beloved late mother-in-law, Nannie Tarter.

My mother-in-law – Irene Maud Tarter, or Nannie Tarter –  was a lovely English lady who lived in her home country during WW11. No one was any sweeter or kinder than she.

She was a young single girl living with her Uncle and Aunt in London. Nannie Tarter would tell the story that when the first bombs hit London, it was so frightening she had to crawl to the door that had jammed to let her Uncle get to her.

Nannie Tarter

Climbing telephone poles doing repair work was her job during the war. She came to the U.S. after the war and worked for a bank until she retired.

Nannie Tarter was the most wonderful cook in the world. Her special pie, for me, was her rhubarb. I had never had a rhubarb pie, and her crust – I know you are not going to believe this – but her crust would flake in at least 10 layers.

So as a young wife and mother, I set out to make a pie just as good as Nannie Tarter’s. In her easy way, she showed me how to make the filling – simple. Then came the crust. It looked so easy when she made it. But when I made it, well, “tough crust” would be a good description. I just knew I would never make a crust like Nannie Tarter.

I learned from her instructions that practice was the key to success. Now when I make a pie, I think about the two of us in her kitchen in Farwell, Texas, in the farmland of the Panhandle. We’re drinking hot tea. She is showing me how to make pie crust, cutting the shortening into the flour with a plain kitchen fork. I’m intently watching everything she does, trying not to forget anything. After 45 years, I think I’ve got it.

—Sherry Tarter – a self-described sentimental southern lady thru and thru – and her family live in Weatherford, Texas in a log home on 5 acres. Most of the activities in her home, says Sherry, revolve around the kitchen. She loves making pies and baking them in one of her Nannie Tarter’s glass pie plates.

Do You Have a Heartwarming Pie Story You’d Like to Share?

If so, we’d love to hear from you.

There are no hard and fast rules for what makes a heartwarming pie story. Dust off your memories, make us laugh, make us cry, surround us with the sights, sounds, and smells of your favorite pie memories. Then send it along. We’ll acknowledge the receipt of your story and let you know if we plan to publish it. Thanks!

Accompanying photos get our attention and are always appreciated.