Taylor Pork Roll-the Meat, the Legend, the Regional Ritual

Memorial Day weekend was coming up and I was looking for something to do.  On my way to work, I heard about a festival that sounded perfect for my Regional Ritual type of blog post.

The Taylor Pork Roll Festival. For those of you from Jersey and the southern Pennsylvania area, you get it.  For those of you who aren’t from here, let me give you some history.

Taylor Ham, as it was originally called, was made by John Taylor in 1856. He kept the recipe a secret, but was force to change the name to Taylor Pork Roll in 1906, as the product did not meet the definition of ham in the new Pure Food and Drug Act. It was made in a cloth sack for easy transportation, and was rumored to have been a provision for soldiers in the Civil War. Production was set up in Trenton, NJ, where it remains today, made by Taylor Provisions.  It still comes in the sack, but also come pre-sliced and ready to fry or grill. Tradition dictates that you cut a slice in the the edge of the round pieces so that it will stay flat when you cook it. Looks like PacMan…

 

 

 

So what is in it?  The recipe is still secret, but it is similar in consistency to SPAM. A blend of herbs and spices, and ground pork.

Whether you call it Taylor Ham or Taylor Pork Roll depends on where you are from.  Central and northern New Jersey tend to call it Taylor Ham, but South Jersey and the Philadelphia area call it Taylor Pork Roll. You can check out the divide here.

pork roll ad

So, off we go to Trenton, NJ.  The Taylor Pork Roll Festival is sponsored by Trenton Social , a bar and restaurant who has been hosting the festival for 5 years. The festival invites local vendors and food trucks to set up and offer their specialties, but they must include pork roll. My first stop was a Bloody Mary, with a tiny pork roll sandwich as a garnish.  Great way to get started!

 

 

Off to what looked to be all thing pork roll,  The Pork Roll Store located in Allentown, NJ. I met Robbie, the self proclaimed “Pork Roll Princess”. Her family has owned their store for 98 years. Robbie is a bubbly ambassador of pork roll, and will gladly tell you all about her family’s business, which she now runs.  They were grilling up Pork Roll kebabs, which consisted of pork roll, pineapple and a cherry.  The combination of the salty pork roll with the caramelized sweetness of the pineapple is quite a taste treat.

 

 

Delorenzo’s The Burg food truck was offering the traditional tomato pie (another food ritual I will save for another blog post) with pork roll included.  If you read the Stephanie Plum book series by Janet Evanovich, you will understand the reference to “The Burg”.  The Burg is the nickname of the Chambersburg section of Trenton. A diverse neighborhood, it was home to Poles, Slovakians, Germans and Irish before becoming predominately Italian.

pork roll the burg

For the classic pork roll sandwich, it has to be Johnny’s Pork Roll.  Johnny’s has your  pork roll, egg and cheese on a hard roll, but also offers variation on the traditional, like the PBLT-pork roll, bacon, lettuce and tomato; The Western-pork roll, provolone, pepper and egg; and The Reuben-pork roll, kraut, Russian dressing on rye bread. Johnny’s embodies the story and the love of pork roll. Check out the video here.

pork roll food truck

There was also pork roll versions by the Bacon Broads, and all types of hot sauce to try on your pork roll by Dirty Sexy Sauce.

But you have to have dessert, right? Go for the Pork Roll Ice Cream. Yup. Made by Jake Hunt of Windy Brow Farms, the ice cream had a bourbon-y-caramel-y base with chunks of pork roll in it. Salty and sweet, it was delicious! Don’t knock it until you have tried it.

pork roll ice cream

This had everything a food festival should have. Recipe contests, music, and the crowning of the Pork Roll Queen. What’s a festival without a pageant? Oh and every festival needs a mascot. Not sure what he was called, but Trenton Social is located near the courthouse, so hence the”Meat of Justice”.

pork roll fest meat of justice

So why does pork roll rate a festival? South Jersey and Philly folks are passionate about their food products and sports teams.  We are a scrappy bunch.  We love our pork roll and our Eagles. Any reason for a party. Super Bowl win or Pork Roll Festival, we are there!

The summer is still young, and there will be more food festivals to attend. Check out the link here in the Philly area.

Which food festivals are in your area?  Go check them out, and post about them here! Would love to see what is your favorite.

Sidenote: We had to try the pork roll kebabs ourselves, so here is a picture of our version. We still had the pineapple, but added yellow pepper, and mushrooms. It is brushed with a Mandarin Orange Ginger salad dressing while grilled, which added a sweet and tangy punch to the kebab. Grilled eggplant was the side.

pork roll kebab2

Enjoy!

 

 

 

2017-The Five Tastes-with a Twist

I haven’t written a post in a while.  Here’s why.

I wrote my last post about my trip to New Orleans in September.  Since then, it seems like the world as we know it has turned completely upside down. People are angry and afraid, myself most definitely included.  And writing about food rituals, or trips or recipes seemed to be either:

  • ignoring the changes in the world and sticking fingers in my ears
  • just really trivial and trite

So, I didn’t write anything, because I couldn’t come up with anything that felt relevant or meaningful. This past year has hit me hard.  I campaigned for Hillary Clinton and was crushed by her loss.  Every day, EVERY DAY, feels like we are losing everything we have stood for as a country and as human beings. The lack of empathy from the White House, Congress and regular citizens is beyond shocking. I went to the Women’s’ March in January and did feel uplifted. But with immigrants being posed as a threat to American jobs (they aren’t) with Dreamers possibly losing the only home they have ever known, with the mass shootings by white guys (if I hear “thoughts and prayers” one more time with no action from Congress). White supremacists are being championed by Trump. The free press is under attack.  Lying is the new normal.

Basically, WTF, America?

So I have felt sad, depressed and afraid. Not conducive to writing a blog about food rituals. But it is the last week of 2017, and I didn’t want to let the year end without having a final word.  So I am basing my final post of 2017 on The Five Basic Tastes, with a twist.

Here goes.

Our taste buds are able to distinguish the five basic tastes as:

  1. sour
  2. salty
  3. bitter
  4. sweet
  5. umami

So let’s take a look at 2017 in terms the five tastes.

Sour

lemons

Sour flavors make your mouth pucker and the taste is highly acidic. Perfect description for how the American people feel about Congress. Soured. And this is on both sides of the aisle, from the most ardent Trump supporter to those who championed Bernie Sanders. Bipartisanship seems to have become a thing of the past, with only a winner and a loser.  Compromise doesn’t exist.  And that is not how our system is supposed to work, my friends.

But sour flavors make you sit up and take notice. They demand your attention. We are seeing people becoming more knowledgeable in how our government works.  A new interest in civics is taking hold.  The sourness witnessed by many has created action.  And that action is getting noticed, and is getting results.

Salty

salt

Salt is a double-edged sword. On the one side, it enhances flavors, bringing out the nuances in a dish. Salt is key to bringing other flavors alive. It is the great promoter of flavors.  We have seen the salty side of people like Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand and Doug Jones. They have stood up against oppression and disrespect from their colleagues in Congress and from the President.  They didn’t back down when ridiculed or maligned.  In fact, they got stronger, enhancing with their salty passion the need to stand up for those who cannot.  Doug Jones’ triumph over Roy Moore was proof that good will prevail. They are the salt of the earth.

But too much salt is destructive. “Sowing the ground with salt” means that nothing will grow. Salty water is undrinkable.  The soil of democracy and the lifeblood of freedom is suffering from  contamination. Balance must be restored in order to bring growth and progress.

Bitter

bitter chocolate

A bitter flavor is thought to have been a poison alarm, that a food was dangerous to consume.

Ya got that right.  I have been very bitter with what I have seen happening in this country. Downright bitter, sad and angry.  But bitterness became my motivator. I took my bitterness and decided to become a Councilperson in my town to help get out the vote.  I live in a VERY Republican part of Pennsylvania. The Democrats here have had very little impact, but not for the lack of trying. So I became a part of a GOTV team for a local resident who was running for Town Board.  For the first time in many years, the Democrats had a huge turnout. Unheard of in years before. And while our candidate didn’t win, County and State positions that had been held by Republicans for years are now held by Democrats.

Bitter flavors are in foods that are high in antioxidants.  Which means, coffee and  dark chocolate, while bitter, have healthy components.  The point being, a little bit of bitter can be healthy in body and mind.

Sweet

sugar

Sweetness is described as the most pleasurable of the flavors.  It is the provider of energy and gives us our get up and go.  But too much causes decay and disease.

Many felt that the Trump victory was a sweet one.  There is a demographic that has felt unheard and unrepresented, and this cureent administration became their sweet revenge. But they have become addicted to the candy they are being fed.  They will believe anything that this faction says, as long as they will get their treat. The problem with sweets is, they have no nutritional value.  Empty calories.  No substance, just a flash of energy that leaves you in withdrawal. When the country finally has its sugar crash, we will be in debt from the tax reform bill, and people will lose their health insurance due to the individual mandate being removed.

But there is a sweet side.  The country has become energized.  People who never before have ever been involved in politics are running for office and winning. Protests are happening and voices are being lifted.  Look at how the African-American vote won the election in Alabama. Finally, there is a direct result that can be seen by the African-American community getting out and voting.  People there worked so very hard, and proved that their voices can and do make a difference. How sweet is that?

Umami

melting pot

Umami is a Japanese description that translates to “delicious taste”.  It is the hardest flavor to narrow down, but is best tasted in cured or fermented foods like cheese, cured meats, soy sauce or pickles. Umami is a gathering of many subtle taste points that are hard to identify individually, but together create a complex flavor.

It’s a melting pot of tastes and senses. Umami is diverse and complex. It is multi layered. It is not one narrative but many.  Umami is to be celebrated, not ignored or denied. Umami enhances and uplifts the other flavors.  It is a common thread of flavor and taste.  It is a unifier.

So here is what I leave you all with as we head into 2018:

We need all of our tastes to make this country a place for all. Sour, salty, bitter, sweet, all a part of our great heritage.

And Umami.  My new slogan for 2018 is MAUA. 

Make America Umami Again.

Wishing you all a hopeful and optimistic 2018, full of flavor and taste.

 

 

 

New Orleans Adventure-Food and meeting the Green Fairy

We recently took a trip to New Orleans.  I had never been there, and it was on my list of places to go.  I had heard many wonderful things about the city, and finally made time visit. So glad we did.

What struck me  almost immediately was the vibe of this city.  It has a very weathered, grimy feel. There is a feeling of old memories and a veneer of wisdom.  In the French Quarter, the buildings are old and open, with high ceilings, peeling paint and cracks in the stucco.  It is romantic and alluring.  History oozes out of every crack and chip.  It is seductive.

And the food.

I went off of my vegan regimen (see previous post on that story…) and took in all that the city offers. First, to get the beignet.  We went to Cafe’ Beignet, as it was near our hotel.  Ordered our coffee and beignets, and had a seat in the courtyard. It’s around 9:30 AM and there is live music playing. An awesome jazz/blues group at breakfast.  The beignets were good; I confess, I’m not a big sweets person, but you have to try them, right?

 

On to oysters. Damn. They were perfect.  Raw oysters tell the tale of the ocean like no other shellfish.  Briny, but sweet and tender, they  bring alive all of your taste buds.  The gentleman shucking the dozen shown here has shucked over 3 million oysters, give or take.  For real.

New Orleans oysters

 

On to the best meal of the trip. We went to GW Fins, in the French Quarter. Known for its seafood, I had one of the best meals I have had in years.  No joke.  A delightful salmon carpaccio as an appetizer had the perfect blend of acid with the fish sliced paper-thin.  My main course is a specialty known as “Scalibut”.  It is a combination of scallops and halibut with lobster risotto, snow peas and pea shoot butter.  This was outstanding, cooked to perfection.  The pea shoot butter added an earthy softness that  pulled all of the flavors and textures together. Divine.

 

The service here was also the best I have seen in a long time. Nick knew the menu inside and out, and recommended the perfect wine pairings. He is spot on.  This place is a do not miss; make sure to try it. (Dare I say, went we to Emeril’s and I think GW Fins is better..)

But on to my favorite ritual.

Absinthe, aka “The Green Fairy”.

Absinthe is a spirit that has its roots in Switzerland and was made in the early 17th century.  The mystique of absinthe was that it had hallucinogenic properties, which caused it to be banned for sale in many countries in the 1920s. Favored by artists, poets and writers, it was the signature drink amongst the Bohemian set.  Toulouse-Lautrec, Degas, and Ernest Hemingway all imbibed.  Oscar Wilde stated about absinthe:

“After the first glass, you see things as you wish they were. After the second, you see things as they are not. Finally, you see things as they really are, and that is the most horrible thing in the world.”

Absinthe does contain thujone, a chemical in the plant wormwood, the main floral in absinthe.  But you would have to consume enormous quantities for it to have any effect.  The more likely cause of  seeing pink elephants is the high alcohol content, up to 138 proof. It has a licorice taste from anise, along with other botanicals. I’m not a huge licorice fan, so I drink the “Mata Hari” brand, less licorice, more florals.

But one of the best things about absinthe is how you drink it.  There is a ritual around how the spirit is prepared.  The ritual conjures up images of bistros in France, with artists romancing show girls.  Decadence, bawdiness, and passion. The ritual itself is as intoxicating as the spirit.

First, you need an absinthe spoon. (These are really cool, and I want an antique one!)

New Orleans absinthe spoons

Place the absinthe spoon over the glass and place a sugar cube on the spoon.

New Orleans absinthe1

 

Pour the absinthe over the sugar cube into the glass. Take a moment to appreciate the beautiful green color.

New Orleans abinsthe2

Light the sugar cube so that it melts into the glass.

New Orleans absinthe3

Add cold water to create the “louche”, the cloudy appearance the absinthe takes on when the water is added.

 

 

 

 

New Orleans absinthe5

 

Sip and experience “The Green Fairy”.

My absinthe experience was in the “Jean Lafitte’s Old Absinthe House“, a bar that is over 200 years old. The bar is like a stage set, with peeling paint and old carved woodwork.  If you are going to try absinthe, this is the bar to try it in. With over 20 types to choose from, you will find one that suits your palate.

I was captivated by New Orleans. It is a magical, mysterious place.  And you need to walk through it, to experience all of the sounds, the fragrances and to feel the pulse of the city.

And get to know the Green Fairy.  Quite the lady.

new orleans green fairy

 

 

 

 

 

Well. Didn’t see that coming.

the scream

 

I have always been an active person.  I still ride my horse, I get out and about, and I can still throw a 50 pound bag of chicken feed over my shoulder.  I do have a job where I tend to sit, but I do get up and move around. Could I run a 5k? Probably not. ( I hate running and I wouldn’t do that even if I could.)  But overall, I consider myself to be in darn good shape for my age.

So I go to my annual medical visit.  Weight, height, pee in the cup, blah blah blah. And blood pressure.

This is where it gets ugly.  140 over 90.

Say what?

Now, I have ALWAYS ALWAYS had low blood pressure.  If I was ever 120 over 80, that was high for me.  I bragged about my low blood pressure.  I wore it like a badge of honor.  Gloated, even.

So I am in disbelief when my doctor tells me this. He asked me “did your parents have hypertension?”

” Yes, both did.”

“Well”, he says “There you go.”  For crying out loud.  My parents ate poorly, drank like it was an episode from Mad Men, and didn’t exercise at all.  No effing way.

My doctor says that I can control this with diet.  And he wants me to follow a specific regimen for 6 weeks.

Full on vegan.

Ok, kill me now.  The no-meat thing I can manage, but NO CHEESE?  Seriously? If I could marry cheese and live with it forever, I would. That is how much I love cheese.  I think my blood pressure will go up because I am so pissed at not being able to have some goat cheese.

So, having gone through:

Denial-“Your blood pressure gadget isn’t working. Take it again.  No, it’s still not working”

Anger-“I do everything right! I don’t over-salt! This sucks!”

Bargaining-“Can I have butter? No? Can I have skim mozzarella?”  Jeez.

Depression-“I won’t be able to go out. I will have to bring my food with me. I will be pathetic.  People will think I’m a real vegan and not a medically induced one…”

And finally:

Acceptance–“Fine. It’s only 6 weeks.  I like vegetables.  I don’t like medications.”

Thus begins my foray into the world of veganism. The first night I had some dark red kidney beans, some diced tomatoes and chilies, add some Penzey’s Taco spice and put it in a tortilla.  And you know what?  It was really good.  And filling!

And my husband is on the vegan bandwagon as well, bless his heart.  He is joining me in the effort, and is looking for recipes we can make.  We both love to cook together, so we will explore this as a team.  My son’s fiancée has been eating vegan and she is going to send me recipes and we are going to do this together.  She is my VB. Vegan Buddy.

I am only 5 days into this, but it really is not as bad as I thought.  I don’t feel as deprived as I thought I would.  And I did blow the vegan diet off for brunch today, because it was my son’s birthday.  I had gazpacho-that met the vegan standard- then had Moule Frites.  I love this French dish of mussels with skinny French fries.  And they were perfect.  I think I actually enjoyed them more, because they were a treat, not the norm.  Ok, I can deal with that.

One up side.My doctor told me one glass of wine a day does help lower blood pressure.  Thank God. One small victory.

While this really felt like a curve ball, I am thankful that I am so healthy.  This is a part of life. My life. And I am really very, very fortunate.

So I will keep you all posted on my progress.  What I would really, really love if you would share some vegan recipes if you have any.  Your support would be a real boost.

I’m in it to win it.  And I will.  I’m coming for ya, blood pressure.  Your days are numbered! You’re going down….

The First Without

 

first without

My Mom died peacefully this past November 1, All Saints Day. She was 94, and suffered from dementia, so it was a combination of grief over losing her, and relief that her suffering had ended.

With her passing, I am officially an orphan.  My Dad passed away in 2003 and my only sister in 2004.  I am flying solo now.

This past year many of my friends have lost parents or siblings.  It is bound to happen, as we are of “that age”.  Family members pass, and with them go many of the family traditions that bound you all together.

The first Christmas without.

The first birthday, yours or theirs, without.

The first wedding anniversary without.

These times were times of family sharing, or they could be times of great stress. My Mom put so much importance on being together for Christmas that it was not enjoyable.  The meal was tense, the pressure to be the perfect family was enormous. It was like she was trying to recreate that Norman Rockwell painting of the family at Thanksgiving.  And yet, I do miss it. For all of her stress and perfectionism, the bottom line was she treasured our small family. She just had a weird way of showing it. To learn more about my Mom, check out my post “Betty and the Banana Cake”.

My Dad and I were very close.  I used to show horses competitively, and he was my biggest supporter and champion. We would get up at the crack of dawn, hitch up the horse trailer and head out. I couldn’t eat anything until I was done competing, just my own nervous food ritual. When I was old enough, Dad and I began our post-show ritual.  We would both sit down and crack open a Genesee Cream Ale. (Beer fans, do not judge me…). Whether I won or lost, this was how we ended a day of competing. It was one of my favorite times with him. To learn more about my Dad, check out my post “Old Ritual= New Ritual”.

My sister loved good meals.  And she adored anything French.  But she could not keep a stocked pantry or refrigerator to save her life.  My son, who was about 9 at the time, and I went to visit my sister in Florida.  I needed to make my son some lunch and opened her refrigerator. No bread. No fruit. No mayonnaise.  But there was a half used jar of capers and a head of frisee. Check the cupboards. No peanut butter. No tuna. No cereal. No kid food, period.  But there were canned snails and dried porcini mushrooms…

We had to go out to the local deli and buy my son a sandwich.

I can’t fault her. She shopped like a European.  And I love snails…

When my Dad passed, I could share the grief with my sister and my Mom.  When my sister passed, I had to support my Mom. No one wants to outlive their children.  When my Mom passed, I had the support of my husband, son, his fiancée and my friends.

I’m not alone, and yet I am.

This year for me is the First Without-without ALL Of Them. And it feels sad.

I have the ashes of all three of them.  And I have been trying to decide what to do.  We aren’t funeral people, there was not a service for any of them. But what I am thinking of doing is having a dinner party for my friends and family who knew them.  And I will cook my Mom’s pot roast (it was always fabulous), make escargot in honor of my sister, and drink a Genny in honor of my Dad.  I’m going to take all of those elements of our meal traditions and share it in remembrance of them.

I’m taking my First Without and having it WITH those who knew and loved them. And I won’t feel alone.

family

Let’s Do Lunch Instead

dilbert lunch

I am currently consulting for a really nice company. The people are very nice, and the place is not overly corporate.  We just finished a large project and the executive wanted to thank the team for a job well done by taking everyone out to dinner.  We went to a wonderful restaurant, the food was great, and we had a room to ourselves.  The whole evening was right on point.

Here’s the thing.

I just don’t like corporate dinners.

I know, I sound ungrateful.  But I find them awkward and uncomfortable, even with the best of company relationships. For me, it is still work.  And at night, after working all day, I just want to go home.  I commute in, so I had to take a train ride that got me home late, and then I had to get up the next morning and go back to work.

I see the evening after work as my time. When I was younger, I enjoyed these events more.  But now I feel like it is an infringement on my time. I want to be home with my husband, or to go see my kids, or to walk my dogs. I spend enough time at work, well, working.

So here is my solution.

The long lunch.

Instead of asking people to give up an evening, take your team out for a long lunch.  A two-hour lunch isn’t going to make or break the business day.  And since people are already there working, they aren’t giving up any of their personal time.

A smaller segment of our team did go out to a lunch. And it was perfect. A fixed price menu with several selections was prepared in advance, and the meal was delightful.  We all had a good time, relaxed and enjoyed each other’s company.  And then we went back to the office. No muss, no fuss. I didn’t have to give up any of what I consider my personal time.

I used to work at another company, and our department would do a holiday dinner.  I was a single parent, and that meant I had to leave work, get my son home, get a sitter, and then meet them at the restaurant.  Not only did I have to run around, but it also cost me money to hire a sitter.  Another person in the department was a single parent as well,  so we approached our boss and asked if we could make the celebration be a lunch instead.  It had never occurred to them about us needing child care, and they gladly changed the party to a lunch.  So much better. We still had a nice time, and I didn’t have to run around and be out-of-pocket for childcare.

So if you are the one organizing a corporate team celebration, consider the long lunch.  It’s still a generous event, and  you aren’t asking your team to give up any of their personal time.  Your team will be grateful, not just for the thank you, but for not infringing on their personal life.

Lunch, let’s do it.

 

 

 

 

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!