Thanksgiving pies at Rosemary Piercy’s home outside of Dardanelle, Arkansas. 2011.
Food says a lot about who we are and where we’ve been. And if you’re a regular reader of this column, you know I often talk about how stories are passed down in families and communities. In many ways food and stories are inseparable. And in this region marked by the foothills of the Ozarks, the edges of the Ouachita Mountains, and the banks in the River Valley, we really like to make pies. And these pies don’t come out of nowhere. They’re often passed down from generation to generation, changing over time as each pie maker brings in their own ideas to the creation.
At the McElroy House: Organization for Cultural Resources and Community Action we’re working on getting our community center ready to open to the public, and to do this we’re finding all kinds of creative ways to raise money to create our parking lot (If you want to read more about how and why we’re creating a parking lot, please check out our website listed below). We want to make sure everything we do relates to our mission of exploring local history while also planning for a collective future. So in honor of all the great pie makers in this region and the approaching fall season, we’re hosting something we’re calling Pies and Postres (the Spanish word for dessert) for Pavement. This community-wide pie-making project will highlight the stories of area pie and postre makers and help make these regional desserts and the stories behind them available to the larger community.
Tres Leche Cake from La Popular in Dardanelle.
Here’s how it will work: Volunteers of all ages and from all around the community are making pies to donate to our project. These can be decades old recipes or new creations. Along with the pie, the pie maker will also submit the story behind the pie or postre. This could include how they learned to bake, where the recipe comes from and why it’s important to them, or anything else they want to share. If possible, we ask that pie makers also submit a few photos. These can be sent online or mailed in. On our webpage you can find a list of questions for pie makers, which can be answered directly or used as a prompt to get you started in sharing your story. We will then compile all these stories and photos and make them available for people to read at our pie booths taking place throughout the fall. Pie makers are also invited to share their stories in person at the pie booth!
We’ll be have an information-only booth at Ozark Memory Days in Dover on September 28th and are planning separate pie sale events for the month of October throughout Pope and Yell Counties. If you’d like us to set up a pie booth at one of your events, please let us know! At the pie booth visitors can purchase the pies, learn more about the pie maker and the diversity of regional pie making traditions, and learn more about our work at the McElroy House. The stories from the pie makers will then be compiled on our webpage and into a booklet that will be printed and made available to the public. We’ll preserve these stories for generations to come.
Do you know someone who makes delicious pies or postres? Would you be willing to donate one of your own creations for this project or help an older relative share their story? You can learn more about this and find all the details at www.mcelroyhouse.wordpress.com. Or give me a call at 479-957-0551.
Below is a list of questions/prompts for pie makers, but feel free to add your own information or throw out these questions all together. We’re interested in hearing your story, however you want to tell it.
1. How did you learn to cook?
2. Where did this particular recipe come from?
3. What’s your first memory of someone making pies/postres? Can you tell us about this person?
4. Why did you choose this particular pie/postre?
5. Why is pie making important to you?
6. Are you teaching this skill to the next generation? If so, we’d love to hear about this.
The Seed and the Story is a partnership with theCourier and Post Dispatch newspapers in Pope and Yell County, Arkansas. This weekly column explores folklife, oral history, and community in central Arkansas, particularly the Yell County area where the column originates. Columns are often written in partnership with the McElroy House: Organization for Folklife, Oral History, and Community Action and humbly attempt to bridge intergenerational themes in the region.