How often do you post?
Once a month.
I used to post every other week, but it’s very hard to bake pie that often and read that fast! In order to keep this fun and to prevent long “pieatuses” followed by spurts of six pies that burn me out, I’m switching to the more leisurely (and convenient) pace of once a month.
Who staffs the piebrary?
I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, as such I have a strong affinity for corn and lake-swimming. I now live and bake in Brooklyn, and since there is nothing I love so well as talking about good books over good food with great friends (who patiently let you force-feed them pie), New York suits me very well for now. I studied English and creative writing as an undergraduate and these days work in publishing to support my pie habit. Everything I know about baking I learned through trial, error, and research. My mom always used to say: if you can read, you can do anything, and it’s totally true!
My digital assistant is Haley, I’ll let her tell you a little more about herself!
My name is Haley, and I’m a writer and illustrator from Boston, MA, where I grew up on piles of books, fresh seafood, and homemade pie. A voracious reader, books are the only thing I love more than traveling and writing, a combination I got my undergrad degree in. I’m also an enthusiastic cook and baker, and love to experiment in the kitchen. I currently work as a social media strategist and writer (when I’m not adding to my dragon horde of vintage books and independent magazines).
Where did this idea come from?
In August, 2013, I was riding New Jersey Transit back into Manhattan with some friends, playing a game where someone names a mutual acquaintance and then I imagine a pie that matches their personality. For example, my father is definitely a hearty triple berry (blue, black, and rasp) with vanilla soft serve. Even if you’ve never met him, you now have an idea of what my dad is like! (And that my love of pie is genetic!)
“You could probably do this with books,” one of my friends said, “make books into pies.”
And lo, the heavens opened up on that train in from Jersey and I was filled with divine, buttery inspiration. People use translation, adaptation, and analysis to pull texts apart and find new meaning in them all the time, why not extend the sensory experience of a book to taste? Specifically, the taste of pie?
How do you “parse” your pies?
When I make a pie, I think about the aesthetics, tone, and themes of the book it’s based on. Sometimes I try to include parts of the book’s history, little facts about how the book was published or an author’s favorite alcoholic drink.
Usually I go into a book looking for flavor cues, specific ingredients or foods already mentioned in the text. But that’s not always helpful; even if I do find something, it might not mesh with my impression of the book as a whole. For example, all anyone ever seems to eat in Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita, is caviar, but I’m not going to make a pie out of fish eggs. So I keep an open mind, look for striking images that might bring a fruit to mind, colors or scents, other sensory details.
Once I have a few tentative ideas, I research recipes and techniques. There’s the internet of course, but I always double check a few recipes and cookbooks before I go off to make a custard I’ve never tried before. You can learn a little more about the resources I use to research my pies in the Appendices page. Every time I’ve rushed into a pie in the past, it’s ended up in my hall of horrors. With that in mind, I still make plenty of mistakes, and that’s also important! Mistakes are how you learn and grow, most of these pies went through a couple drafts.
A little thanks
This blog would not exist without the emotional and gastronomical support of my friends and family. Thanks to everyone who spreads the word about The Piebrary, especially Haley, who appears to have made it her holy mission in life to spread the gospel of pie. I hope you enjoy making and eating these pies as much as I enjoyed dreaming them up!