For close to a baker’s dozen years now, fresh pie has been an integral part of the Humana Festival experience for a select group of attendees, most of them dramaturgs and literary managers from around the country. Midway through the new play marathon that the Festival offers, these intrepid scouts and critics and theatrical gastronomes pause to refresh themselves with an array of pies from Louisville’s inimitable Homeade Ice Cream and Pie Kitchen. Originally a small, guerilla venture off-campus in search of baked goods, the event has over the years become a formal part of the schedule, complete with not only two tables overflowing with filled treats but also what can only be termed Pie-a-turgy. This year’s lobby display offered the following expert exigesis from the wits and wags in the Literary Office of Actors Theater:
I interview Bakers
Q: What are you working on now?
A: An adaptation, or perhaps, a willful misinterpretation of the classic Apple Pie. One that addresses the labor injustices hidden by the high gloss and low cost of your lunch-box Fuji.
Q: Tell me a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a baker.
A: I grew up in a small town and didn’t have TV. To top it off, my parents weren’t into fast food of any kind, so if I wanted a sweet treat, I had to make it myself. A lot of those first attempts were soupy and kind of a mish-mash of ingredients, but I loved it. and my family always pretended to enjoy my half-cooked creations.
Q: If you could change one thing about baking…?
A: More people should eat things that aren’t pre-baked or shrink-wrapped (both of which are fine by the way, but come on. Enough.)
Q: What advice do you have for bakers just starting out?
A: Share your pies. Get a group of friends together, wherever, in the kitchen, a basement, wherever. Bake pies. Share pies.
A recent surge in pastry-education has cultivated new interest in pie-baking, but few institutions can support this trend. “In terms of encouraging new bakers, serving new pies, and sending our pies out to other bakeries, we won’t be able to do what we hoped.” —Pastry Master at the Guthrie.
One of our most respected bakers was quoted in the new York Times saying, “New pie development is dead. It just became too expensive to bake new pies. Today, instead of 50 regional bakeries developing 50 new pies, what you have is one new pie by an established baker that gets served 50 times at 50 regional bakeries.”
Most patrons are only interested in traditional or holiday pies. They want the pie they grew up on. They think they won’t like new pies, or that they’d rather eat a donut or some other desert-on demand. And maybe the only way to preserve the art of pie-making is to evolve. Is to reach out to this new generation that grew up with gluten intolerance and iPhones.
-Spokesperson for the LMDA (Lard Mixers and Dough-rollers of the Americas
The Shape of Pies to Come:
A baker, as any other food artist, should accept the bald fact that content determines form and form determines content. A crust is not something that gets in the way of the culinary experience but is an integral part of the pie.
Bakers are often encouraged to stick to a traditional, two crust, closed-top pie structure with the filling inside. Those sorts of pies are fine, but we should understand that the pie crust is not merely a docile, decoratively latticed pastry, but an active ingredient in the sort of taste experience which ultimately inhabits it.
Why a closed top pie crust? Why a crust at all? If a baker chooses to invoke the taste of time immemorial enclosed in a pair of parentheses, then the pie naturally assumes a new shape. Emerging bakers must find the pastry form that fits the equation of their filling.