Life of Pie: Carrying on Family Traditions and Cooking Up New Ones

By Naomi Henry / Photography By Naomi Henry | September 15, 2014
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This shot was styled using the pie server passed down through the family from my great-grandmother, olive killingsworth.

Pie is a part of who I am. Where other families pass down blond hair or freckles, I inherited pie.

For as long as I can remember, my family nickname has been "sweet tooth."

When my birthday rolls around, most of the time, I request our family's famous "secret" raspberry pie (from the ubiquitous Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker).

Despite my well-deserved nickname, cake was never my thing. Whether too dry, too fake, too much frosting or a combination of all three, birthday cake never held the appeal of juicy, tart, sweet raspberries enveloped in a flaky, buttery crust.

My mother also delighted in birthday pies as a child and my paternal grandfather drove a Helms Bakery truck around South Downey and North Bellflower in the '50s and '60s. On his deliveries, he satisfied hungry masses with the perfectly baked goodies tucked in the beautiful, boxy truck's many drawers.

Steve Henry, Naomi’s dad, looks for goodies hidden in the drawers of the Helms Bakery truck his father used on his route through South Downey and North Bellflower in the ’50s and ’60s.

Later in life, he regaled us with stories of children who plunged their chubby fingers smack-dab in the center of a pie to claim their prized sweet. His passion for pies never waned. I am certain he gleefully looked on from above as we celebrated his life by bringing a favorite pie to share. While we have different favorites (he, lemon meringue; me, raspberry), I like to think a general love for pies connects the two of us.

So there it is, pie and me.

My history and lifelong affair with pie convinces me that I'm predestined to open a cozy pie shop someday. Homey, comforting and communal – this is how I envision my pie shop and how I personally experience pie.

As my interest in pie turned into a full-blown obsession, I meditated on what exactly makes pie so great. I've thought about it in abstract, scientific ways to try to figure out: Why pie? The answer floated in as gently as the heady scent of crisp, sugary piecrust wafts up the stairway of our house:

Quite simply, pie is love.

In my experience, people bake pies for those they love. They roll the dough and peel the fruit with care, carefully toting a warm pie to communal gatherings where it serves as an extension of their caring for those whom they hold dear.

Pie wraps people in a delicious sense of community, the way that a cookie or a cake simply can't. Pie says, "Sit down. Share. Come savor this moment of togetherness."

Pie conjures thoughts of a grandmother's kitchen, potlucks, family gatherings, memories of bubbling fruit, houses full of joy and even fuller hearts.

So grab your pastry blender (or two knives) and share the love. If you're intimidated by making a crust from scratch, don't worry. On these pages, I'll pass along the secrets of pie and celebrate the tasty pie-fect, im-pie-fectness of being together in this life.

Our step-by-step how-to on making piecrust follows.

Article from Edible Ojai & Ventura County at
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