Art of the Pie-Interview with author Kate McDermott

If you have been following my blog and Facebook page, you will know that I am a huge fan of pie.  Just love it. So when my library offered “Art of the Pie-A Practical Guide to Homemade Crusts, Fillings and Life” by Kate McDermott as the Big Library Read, I checked it out.  I was totally into a cookbook dedicated to pie.

Art of the Pie.png
photo courtesy of Andrew Scrivani

What I discovered was much more than a recipe book. It was Kate’s stories about her life and her philosophies. It is pie, with musings and insights. And with such beautiful photographs, by noted New York Times photographer, Andrew Scrivani.  I fell in love with this book.

So I emailed her, and asked her for an interview. And Kate being the generous soul that she is, agreed.

When I called her for the interview, I was struck immediately by her warm demeanor. She radiated kindness and friendship. I could tell right away how much she loves what she does, and how pie has been such an important part of her life. She is completely down to earth.

We started off by talking about her book being selected for the Big Library Read.  This is a global ebook club run through public libraries.  The books are selected by librarians, and “Art of the Pie” was the first ever cookbook to be selected.  Quite an honor.

We then reviewed Kate’s Three Rules, which are in the introduction of her book:

Rule# 1: Keep everything chilled, especially yourself- Keeping your ingredients chilled makes them easier to work with. And keeping yourself chilled makes your life easier.  She says “chilling out” means that you can only control what you have control of.  And that fretting and worrying about things beyond your control are simply non-productive. Instead, be kind, be generous and do meaningful work.

Rule# 2: Keep Your Boundaries- in pie making, this means watch your pie crust edges, so that they don’t burn. Finish your crust edges with a final crimp. In life, it means setting your boundaries for yourself and with others.  You cannot, and shouldn’t try  to be all things to all people. Kate said “Life is short, don’t take things so seriously. It is entirely ok to say no. You need to learn to stand your ground”.

Rule #3: Vent-  I love this one! In order for your pie to not to erupt, you cut some vents in the crust to allow steam to escape. If you don’t, the pie will find a weak point and just blow. And so can we.  There are times we need to off-load our feelings, and “vent” our frustrations. This keeps us from blowing up at the wrong thing or person. And if we don’t our bodies can react with illness and malaise.  So, vent away!

Pie making gives you the ability to practice these three rules.  Kate said “the rules are a constant work in progress. You have to practice on a regular basis, you have to own it”.

Our talk then turned to the meditative quality of simple tasks. A humbling task, like pie making, laundry or sweeping the floor, is grounding.  Simple tasks have a rhythm, which allows you to wander in your mind. It is both physical and mental. Kate noted that all of her meditative tasks involve her doing something with her hands.  It may be making pie, digging in the garden, or playing an instrument. Kate is also an accomplished musician. “I have lived an artist’s life” says Kate. “I am so fortunate”.

Kate teaches “Pie Camp”, where you get to spend a day or a weekend learning and making pies.  I asked her about people’s anxiety about making the perfect pie.  “Oh yes”, she says. “People  are all caught up with their pie being perfect. Or they want to recreate their Grandma’s pie. I tell them, how about we create your own pie?”

“There is nothing wrong with things being perfectly imperfect”.  Perfection is never achievable. Kate says that if something isn’t working, like a crust or combination of ingredients, then just walk away and start again. No harm, no foul, no judgement.  Just do it over.  “All is right and none is wrong”. Kate strives to instill this message to her Pie Campers.

Kate noted that people who come to her pie camps think that making pie is hard.”You have to be a lifetime learner. Know how to find out. Learn how to learn.”  She shows them it is not about the end result of the pie, but the process of making it that counts. It’s about using your senses. The feel of the pie dough when it is not too stiff, not too sticky. The taste of  just enough cinnamon for the apples. Maybe you need a bit more? The smell of the fruit as it bakes, yes, it smells like it’s done. Does the crust look brown enough? Time to come out of the oven.  It’s learning to trust your senses, to get the gut feeling of just knowing.  Pie can teach you that it IS about the journey, not the destination.

We then discovered we share a  pet peeve.

The Trophy Kitchen.

You know, that fancy, super expensive kitchen with the high-end appliances and the granite countertops with the imported hand-made tiles from some obscure mountain town in Italy.

The ones no one cooks in.  Except maybe for the caterer.

Kate does NOT have a trophy kitchen. In fact, Kate just recently splurged on a dishwasher.  “All you need in a kitchen is water, heat to cook with, cold to refrigerate or freeze and a flat space to work”.  The notion that you need  all of the state of the art appliances and gadgets is just that. A notion. The Trophy Kitchen is the symbol of the quantity vs. quality mentality. It sets up a lifestyle of impossible competition.  From “not enough” to “never enough”. Who needs it? No one, really.

In addition to being  a book about life lessons, Art of the Pie is also practical guide to pie baking. There are many tips and techniques, plus many recipes. There are all kinds of examples of crusts.  PS-pie crust is not the enemy.  It isn’t hard to make…

Kate’s book has been nominated for the prestigious 2017 James Beard Foundation Award in the media category. She has numerous other awards, and has been featured in Bon Appetit, Oprah Magazine and Food & Wine Magazine, plus many others. I asked her how it felt to be the Rock Star of Pie.  “Oh pinch me. I feel like Cinderella every day. ” When asked about what helped create her success she said “I never had a plan. I followed my gut.” She loves to teach, and she took that love and brought it to pie making.  But she doesn’t stand in the spotlight. “It is pie that is the star” she says humbly.

Kate’s goal is to turn this country back into people who know how to cook.  She wants them in the kitchen, using their senses. She wants children to learn to cook from their parents. The experience of the process, the discovery of a passion, is what Kate  wants to bring out in people.

The best example of Kate’s generosity is that she has NEVER sold a pie. Not once. Ever. Each and every pie she has made has been given away, freely and with love.

So, you would love to follow your passion, but how to get started?  Follow Kate’s guiding principles:

  1. Follow the voice in your gut. You know the one. Listen to it.
  2. You must be passionate. Be prepared to work harder and longer than you ever have before.
  3. Make sure that you give something away. If your plan isn’t quite coming together, give more away.  It will come back to you.
Kate McDermott
photo courtesy of Andrew Scrivani

So, go find your passion. Make some pie, some art, some music.

You can do it.  It’s as easy as pie.

 

To learn more about Kate, and to find information about Pie Camp and her workshops, go to her website at artofthepie.com.  You can find her on Facebook Twitter Pinterest and Instagram. You can purchase her book from her local Indie book store and she will sign your copy! Also available on Amazon.

Thank you, Kate for taking time to talk with me.  I am so inspired.  Now off to make pie!