Cookbooks as Treasure Maps, and the Healing Power of Pie

Everytime I crack an egg, I am trying to re-create some of the healing that fried egg sandwich brought me so many years ago. I’m convinced that the one thing that made my sleep as deeply restful as it was that spring day, was the fried egg sandwich my mom had made for me. Was that all just a dream?  I remember driving to my mom’s house with the only two kids I had at the time, thinking we would spend the afternoon chatting. I was hungry after the long drive, and even though it was past breakfast time, she made me a fried egg sandwich.

After that sandwich, she sent me to bed. I crawled into her bed, and nestled into the smell of her in her pillow and slept. Now that’s she’s gone, the smell of her that afternoon, from her pillow, is as real as if I’m sleeping there now.

I need that sandwich again. Yet every time I put the same ingredients together, real butter, white bread, eggs, salt and pepper, I can’t make mine taste as good as hers did that day.

How many sandwiches, casseroles, cobblers or pies have we made that have touched someone that deeply, and we never even knew it?

Food can heal the soul. Deeply. On levels we can only imagine. It’s a mystery to me, but this kind of kitchen-style soul healing is elusive.  There is the frantic hurry-up-and-get-the-food-on-the-table cooking, and then there’s healing cooking. It’s slower and a bit more carefree — and it’s something I work for every single day.

This may explain why I read cookbooks as if they are novels. Searching the list of ingredients, the history of the recipe, as if I could find an ancient treasure map to the soul. I try a new recipe as if it were the latest magical cure. I may have reached this pinnacle many times, and not even know it — because this kind of healing occurs over time — when you ache for something you can’t quite put your finger on, and you find yourself remembering that fried egg sandwich. Just thinking about it brings solace.

I read about Beth Howard years ago. There was a magazine article about her new book that was coming out. A cookbook, about how she “healed” herself through pie. It all started when she got caught stealing apples, and the owner ended up teaching her how to make her first pie.

The taste of that pie stuck with her, like my fried egg sandwich.  So that when she was left widowed at a young age, she went back to pie. She literally bought the very house, the iconic tourist attraction of the American Gothic House, and started making and selling pies — selling elusive healing, and then teaching others how to make pies herself.

I forgot about Beth, and her new cookbook. And then her new Pie Cookbook showed up in my mailbox,
Ms. American Pie: Buttery Good Pie Recipes and Bold Tales from the American Gothic House, and I started reading the book, like a treasure map, looking for gold. I was several recipes into the book before I realized that this was the Beth Howard, who had found solace in the kitchen. In butter, flour, flaky crusts and sugar. I love this cookbook. Beth sells pies and teaches pie classes… and please view her TEDx talk here, The Healing Power of Pie. 

Beth understands that it’s not about the perfect pie crust (because it’s just pie), so even though her instructions tell you not to worry about making it perfect, (although if you do methodically follow her steps you just might) she is encouraging you to get that pie of yours out there, because she knows how much it just might heal you — or someone else.

When it comes to pie recipes, there really isn’t anything new under the sun, right? But flipping through the gorgeous pages of these pies, you just want to whip out that rolling pin and start baking.

The S’more pie

The Grasshopper

And pies in jars.




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4 comments to “Cookbooks as Treasure Maps, and the Healing Power of Pie”
  1. I don’t think I’ve ever had a meal like that, but Id like to try… please enter me to win!

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