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“Baby don’t you cry, gonna make a pie. Gonna make a pie with a heart in the middle…”

In my favorite food movie, Waitress, 3 pie diner waitresses laugh, gossip, and deal with persnickety customers, bad boyfriends, and other various life crises. The main character, Jenna, invents 27 unusual pies each morning with names like, “I Hate My Husband Pie” and “Car Radio” pie. In my favorite scene, she’s singing and stirring chocolate in her kitchen, reminiscing about her mother’s pies as she bakes a “Lonely Chicago Pie” a decadent concoction of chocolate, brown sugar, and blackberries.

I love this movie because the waitresses remind me of all the women in my family, gossiping and cackling in the kitchens of my childhood. I’d sit quietly under the kitchen table, listening intently while they worried and laughed, spelling out words little ears shouldn’t hear. Except I could spell really well. The women in my family were known for their from-scratch cakes. But I loved their pies. Coconut custard, chocolate silk, bourbon pecan, mince, pumpkin. When they made pie, it was an event. I absolutely adore homemade pie.

Which is why I jumped at the chance to judge the 2010 Charlottesville Pie Fest. On October 3, 2010, people gathered at The Haven to eat pie, auction off pie, and judge one pie as “Best In Show”. All to benefit PACEM. Eighteen pies were entered, but only one was chosen the winner. Full results are at the Charlottesville Pie Fest website.

I felt like Boomer Esiason on the main stage as a pie finalist judge. Have you SEEN him judging Iron Chef? Yep, that was me. A real pie meathead. And I was surrounded by pie experts. People like Brian Geiger, Mollie Cox Bryan, and Rowena Morrel, who make pie all the time and can proudly wear that “expert” label.

But me? I just like to eat homemade pie. And oh yeah, I write about food and attempt to sound like I know what I’m talking about. With wildly varying degrees of success. But turn down a pie-judging opportunity? Not on your life sistah! I tried to channel my family womenfolk as best I could and offered my evaluations. Could even hear my Momma scolding, “Now don’t go and make a damn FOOL of yourself, ya heah?”

In the end, we all agreed Adrianna Gallo’s Pear-Cranberry Pie with Gingersnap Crumble topping was the best. Indeed it was – a beautifully made dessert with the snap of ginger, sweet crunch of pear, and the tart tang of cranberries.

Not only did I judge, but I won Elena Rosemond-Hoerr’s Caramel Green Tomato Pie in the silent auction. You heard me right – CARAMEL GREEN TOMATO. It was named “Judge’s Select” in the competition. Oddly enough no one else bid on it. To me it was a thing of beauty to behold. A unique and strange concoction straight out of the movie Waitress. The crust was just sweet enough, made with graham crackers and caramel. The pie itself tasted of warm golden delicious apples. The fried green tomatoes on top? Heck, they’re fried green tomatoes, what’s not to like? The only thing it lacked was an outlandishly poetic name. Maybe I’ll call it “Under The Kitchen Table” pie after my childhood hiding place. Maybe I’ll even try to make one myself. Stranger things have happened…

Thank you to Brian Geiger for organizing the judging that day, and especially to Marijean Jaggers for asking me to be a finalist judge. It’s her fault I just ordered a pie crust protector.

Kathy Kildea’s AWESOME Youtube video of the event:

13 Comments Post a comment
  1. Pie…did someone say PIE!!!!Wow, this is a cornucopia of pie!

    October 7, 2010
  2. You are quite welcome, and thank you for judging. You did a great job on the judging panel.There are things in life that require an expert opinion. Fixing a car. Diagnosing a disease. Directing air traffic.Choosing the best pie should not be one of those things. Oh, sure, Iron Chef has its professional judges and its meals that, honestly, probably make more sense to people who eat at restaurants more than they eat at home.Pie isn't a fancy pastry. It's not something that should only be presented by the best chefs in France. Leave them to do sugar work, or chocolate tempering, or maybe even cakes.Pie is about community and tradition. Pie is about love. Pie is something that your grandmother can probably make better than your local bakery. Pie is the epitome of the perfect food for the enthusiastic amateur to make. And, because of that, it's the perfect thing for the enthusiastic amateur to judge, as well. So, while I certainly understand the feelings of being out of your depth (I go through that all the time), I still say pish. Also: tosh. Pish and tosh.:)

    October 7, 2010
  3. Dee #

    I love pie too and have many fond memories of watching and helping my mother make apple pies as a child. Here's my chief pie complaint. I cannot get used to a crust that is not made with lard. It just does not taste right to me and I simply adore my lard crusts with any pie, apple, cherry, whatever!!! Now it's hard to even find a lard crust recipe. I guess it's not PC??? By the way, coconut custard is one of my very favorites and another one that's hard to find. Keep up the good work Jenee! Love, Denise

    October 7, 2010
  4. Gosh Libby- you had me wanting a glimpse of that pie! I like the name you chose, loved the movie- love any movie about food, lol!

    October 7, 2010
  5. I love this post! Glad we finally met (over pie) and that you enjoyed your time as a pie judge.

    October 7, 2010
  6. No you didn't! I'm so jealous! I'm naming your prize, "Shut your pie-whole pie" and trying to forget how I've never judge a food competition.

    October 8, 2010
  7. LOL! @Lindsey that cracked me up. Are there food festivals where you live? We have one like EVERY WEEK here in Cville, and oddly enough they don't ever have enough judges *scratching head in disbelief* Let 'em know you have a food blog and they'll be knocking down your door :D@Dee I just came into some beautifully rendered pork lard…now if I could only find a recipe?Thank you everyone for these wonderful comments! I had a hoot and a half at this festival, and can't wait for next year…..but next year I want to be a first-round judge….that way I can taste more PIE! :D :D :D Cheers!

    October 8, 2010
  8. The technique for pie crust is the same with lard as with shortening or butter, so just sub out. Michael Ruhlman's ratio is 3 parts flour, 2 parts fat, 1 part water.

    October 8, 2010
  9. Hello,I am the proud winner of the pie fest! What a fun day it was, thank you for judging and for this wonderful post. I'm a little late getting to comment. :) Ooh, I really wanted to taste that Green Tomato-Caramel pie, such an interesting combination! I love your blog, congrats on getting so far on Project Food Blog, quite a feat. I've just started a blog, check it out if you get a minute. The first post is about pie!

    November 4, 2010
  10. Congratulations! That pie was to die for. You *must* post the recipe, would love to have this at Thanksgiving! Terrific blog btw, I'll start following :) Cheers!

    November 5, 2010
  11. Hi Libby,Thank you so much! I just posted the recipe on my blog. Enjoy!

    November 6, 2010
  12. I'm back, reading this post again and reading Brian's fabulous comment (so much love for Brian — shhh – don't tell; he's supposed to be my arch nemesis) and want to tell you how wonderful it is to not only have you part of the pie fest but to have you as part of the foodie experience here in C'ville, to know you as a friend and to be lucky enough to get to read your posts. Hugs,Marijean

    December 4, 2010
  13. Awww, Marijean you're making me blush! *blushing* Thank you so much, I needed to hear this today…one of the BEST things about being a food writer here in Cville is meeting fabulous people like yourself. I'm so glad we've become friends, and I hope we do many many more food related events…..or even just grab a beer sometime soon :D Cheers!

    December 6, 2010

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