A dark chocolate ganache with pomegranate syrup and pomegranate seed garnish, inspired by “On Foot I Wandered Through the Solar Systems” by Edith Södergran.
I recently gave a talk at Fieldston Middle School in the Bronx about books, pie, my day job in publishing, and how rewarding it can be to pursue what you love. To be sure that everyone was on the same page and knew the texts we’d be sampling in pie form, I selected a couple of poems that we could read together. In an effort to diversify and branch out from the typical canon (i.e., read someone other than an old, white, American/British dude), I drew on Haley’s knowledge of obscure international poetry. The poem that she recommended, “On Foot I Wandered Through the Solar Systems,” immediately became one of my favorites for its bold feminine courage and empathy.
A strawberry rhubarb pie inspired by Alice Hoffman’s The Red Garden and Practical Magic.
I’ve been reading Alice Hoffman’s work since I was a preteen, starting with her YA novel Aquamarine when I was about twelve. From there I’ve grown with her heroines whispering in my ear. Because of her subject matter and the high volume, I think some people write Hoffman’s work off as upmarket women’s fiction. If that’s the case, I would like to see more of that genre with her bravery, literary craft, and flair, please.
A chili con-carne savory pie with cornbread crust inspired by The Boxcar Children series by Gertrude Chandler Warner
I think everyone read at least one serialized chapter book series as a kid. If you say you’ve never read a Goosebumps, Nancy Drew, Magic Treehouse, or Sweet Valley High book you are just lyin’ like a rug. One of the series I devoured as a kid was the boxcar children. It’s probably not the most well known middle grade series ever, but for some reason I thought it was the shit. So obviously, I decided to go back and read it again. Because rereading stuff you loved as kid as an adult is never disappointing at all.
A raspberry lemonade icebox meringue, inspired by Pierce Brown’s Red Rising Trilogy (or at least the first two books). When I recommended Red Rising to my friends, I said things like, “it is so good, you have to read it!” But when I tell people about the recently-released Golden Son, the second book of Pierce Brown’s action-packed trilogy (Morning Star to come), I simply deadpan: “it’s orgasmic.” Vivid, rich, and with pacing as sharp as a razor’s edge, this is definitely one of those series I will be recommending for years to come.
A variation on hunter or shepherd’s pie; a savory lamb pie inspired by The House on the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods, by Matt Bell.
When you crave “green space” in New York City, you head to a park where hundreds of other sweaty (often shirtless) people are fighting for a place to lay their picnic blanket. The operative word for most people is “green;” that desire to get out, get a little sun, and wiggle their toes in cigarette-butt-studded grass. Throw a Frisbee around. For me it is the opposite. When I crave trees and running water, what I really need is the space. I love being alone in the woods with nothing but leaves and rotten logs and spider webs strung between blades of long grass. Give me a lake! God, the things I can do with a lake.
So when I read the title of Matt Bell’s The House on the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods I thought, “that sounds like a house I’d want to live in.” I was grossly, painfully, disturbingly wrong.
Maple and oat chess pie with dark chocolate seams, inspired by Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
At this point Frankenstein has become so ingrained in our popular consciousness I think it’s difficult to read the novel without any kind of preconceived ideas. The green, flat-headed monster with bolts protruding from his neck has become such an iconic part of the horror canon (especially in cinema) that it’s sometimes difficult to reconcile pop-culture with the literary reality.
Shoofly pie with pecans and a poached apple garnish, inspired by The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka.
It’s really hard to sell people on this pie. The particular, bitter tang of molasses cut with woody pecans, balanced with the sweet, syrupy taste of an apple poached soft in cider, cinnamon, and brown sugar; it all takes a backseat to the creepy-crawly stigma of Kafka’s disturbing novella. It is, however, an excellent pie for Autumn!
A blackberry-peach fruit pie inspired by The Princess Bride by William Goldman
I grew up on the film adaptation of The Princess Bride, to this day it’s probably my favorite movie of all time. Like the kids of Florin and Guilder, I spent my childhood terrified of the Fire Swamp and the ROUSs, but the humor, adventure, and romance of the movie woke something story-hungry in me at an impressionable age. However, even knowing every line from the movie by heart (my family and friends refuse to watch it with me anymore), I had never read the book! Inconceivable! I figured if I was going to call myself a true fan, I had to go back to the beginning.
An Orange, Lemon, and Key-Lime Pie with a Graham Cracker Crust, Inspired By The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
It took me a couple of readings and a few years of living in New York City to understand the complexity of wit and emotion in Gatsby. When I first read it in 11th grade I didn’t like the characters, they seemed shallow and dysfunctional, and yet it seemed like all my friends were invested in this great American romance. When I read it again a few years later I realized that not only had my instincts about the book been right, but that its genius also stems from the way social commentary is layered into the characters’ personalities. Lesson learned: you don’t have to like a character for them to be well written.