As I was making pies tonight, I thought I’d share with you an awesome story.
I had the privilege of growing up right next door to one of the greatest women I’ve ever met – my Granny. She was the hardest working person I’ve known, too, and had such a positive influence on everyone around her.
Growing up, I knew she was special – people would drive for miles to get one of her pies. She would make anywhere from 10 to 20 a day, and sell them from her house or over at my uncle Tommy’s store. She would get up while it was still dark outside, and have her kitchen clean by the time most of us were getting out of bed. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, she made dozens of pies for weeks, covering her whole house with boxes of special orders. She wanted to make sure that anyone who asked would have the perfect dessert for family gatherings. She averaged up to 3000 pies a year, and kept this up well into her 80s. She was absolutely amazing.
Almost 10 years ago, I was asked if I would be interested in illustrating a cookbook. I hadn’t done anything quite like that before, but I thought I’d go ahead and try. I ended up illustrating two book covers for Cookbook Resources. The first that was published was for the Illinois Farm Bureau (above). But I actually finished one called Simple Old-Fashioned Baking first. It just took a couple of years before the book was published.
Meanwhile, I got to meet the company’s owner, Sharon Jones, at her office in Highland Village. After chatting for a while we realized we were from nearby towns in Fannin County. I told her that the inspiration for my cookbook cover for Simple Old-Fashioned Baking was my grandmother, who was an excellent cook, and notorious for her baking. I spoke of my grandmother’s hand-written recipe cards that I used for the cover, and how people would drive for hours to get her pies. Then a light bulb went off, and she said, “Your grandmother was the PIE LADY!?” She was very familiar with my grandmother’s work, and decided right then to dedicate Simple Old-Fashioned Baking to her!
I couldn’t have planned that any better, if I’d tried — a cookbook that I illustrated that ended up being dedicated to my Granny. Sharon also went and interviewed my grandmother, and there’s a short biography along with some of her recipes inside the book. I was so proud to get to be a part of this project, and then to have my grandmother celebrated was more than I could have imagined.
Tonight I made three pies using her recipes. It took me about 3 hours, and I (along with my kitchen) was covered with flour when I was done. I don’t know how she accomplished what she did, but I realize now what an artist she was. Every pie she made was delicious and also beautiful. She never used a recipe or really measured anything exactly. She make all of her crusts by hand, and could tell if they were right by “feel.” (Family members had to convince her to write things down for us, so we would have a chance at getting it remotely right).
Well, my pies might not win any beauty contests, but man, they smell good! And they taste almost as good as hers.