The power of pie

The book cover of Making Piece: A Memoir of Love, Loss and Pie by veteran journalist and expert pie...

The book cover of Making Piece: A Memoir of Love, Loss and Pie by veteran journalist and expert pie baker Beth M. Howard. (Courtesy of Beth Howard)

Rita DeMontis, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:16 PM ET

Move over Christmas — we're celebrating National Pie Day!

And, seriously, you can't get better than that: Today, we see how a slice of nice can be good for body and soul.

According to the American Pie Council, (the "only organization committed to preserving America's pie heritage and raising awareness, enjoyment and consumption of pies." ) — we're all being encouraged to perform "random acts of pieness" on this day.

If anyone knows how a slice of pie can help heal it's Beth M. Howard, a veteran journalist and expert pie baker, whose book, Making Piece: A Memoir of Love, Loss and Pie, was written as a way for her cope with grief after the sudden loss of her husband several years ago. "I learned to heal through baking," said Howard and she applied the power of positive pie she delivered sweet comfort to the people of Newtown and the Sandy Hook students after the recent shooting of 26 residents in Connecticut last month. She drove up in her camper loaded with more than 240 pies, and just started handing out slices of pies, and delivering pies to grieving relatives.

"It was a real groundswell of support that started with a random message on Facebook the day of the shooting," said Howard from her home in Iowa, where lives in the original American Gothic House (the famous one in the Grant Wood painting). "The next day, and with the help of friends and strangers, I headed out, stopping in New Jersey to bake pies in people's homes, before heading out for Newtown."

She stayed in this devastated town close to a week, baking more pies when they ran out, supplying whole pies for the funerals, handing out love and compassion with every slice.

"This was an incredibly powerful experience, and I'm still trying to process all that took place," said Howard, who also taught pie making to some of the students who had been in Sandy Hook school during the shooting. "This is a wonderful community, a town full of generous and kind people. One thing I heard over and over again.. is we don't want to be remembered for this."

And — the slices of pie brought smiles and hugs and a sense of hope. And invitations to return, which Howard is planning to do in the spring.

The American Pie Council encourages all of us to celebrate today, by buying or baking a favourite pie, and sharing it with family and friends. Or teach someone to bake this beloved treat. Hold a pie auction, with proceeds going to raise funds for a favourite charity.

Although National Pie Day is an America initiative, we're pretty sure we're big fans of pies here in Canada, a food that's part of popular culture and interwoven in the fabric of national identity.

Seriously, folks, do we need an official day to eat pie? Pass the plate, please!

MOST POPULAR PIES:

According to a 2008 survey by Crisco and the American Pie Council, apple continues to rule, followed by pumpkin, pecan, banana cream and cherry.

THE BEST PIE MAKERS ARE...

Who makes better pies — men or women. A good friend I know has been baking pies for years, and has passed on that passion to his three boys. "I grew up in a family where men did bake, creating pies with the fresh fruit we grew up with."

The pastry makers I know are all men — I figure the upper body strength helps roll out the lightest dough.

Yet pie maker Beth Howard says "children make the best pies — they're not self-conscious and they don't get so down on themselves. Pies are not supposed to be perfect, they're homemade for heaven's sake, and should look homemade!"

LARD OR SHORTENING

Lard does make the flakiest pastry, but many shy away due to the saturated fat issues. Howard uses a half/half blend of butter and shortening. "The secret to a perfect crust is not to work the crust too hard — if it looks too dry, just add a bit more water. Look at the dough and listen to what it's telling you."

Check out theworldneedsmorepie.com.


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