Pie Fixes Everything . . . Mostly

Shameless Self-Promotion Department, Part I—See me at the following events in May:

  • Saturday, May 13 at 2 PM: Reading and Talk at South Portland Main Library on Broadway
  • Thursday, May 18 at 6:30 PM: Talk with Kate Flora, Lea Wait, and me at the Gray- Public Library, 5 Hancock St. in Gray.

Shameless Self-Promotion Department, Part II

Please beyond words to report that the Elder Darrow origin story In Solo Time (prequel to Solo Act) will be published in September 2017 by Encircle Publications. Just for the halibut, here’s the amazing cover.

Note the Book 1 designation, which is designed to confuse readers as to which books in the series they’ve already bought.

Now to our regularly scheduled programming.

Because Jim Harrison died recently, I’ve been on a rereading kick and picked up a collection of his food writing called A Really Big Lunch.

While it’s mostly a set of columns he wrote on food and wine for various magazines (and occasionally repetitive), I found myself stopped dead, as I often do when reading him, by the following words:

You have to be a tad careful about your excesses because you can’t make a lasting philosophical system out of cooking, hunting, baseball, fishing, or even your sexuality.

While I take exception to one or two of his exceptions, I also believe each of us does need a system with which to engage the world and I’ve decided that pie is as good a system as any. And in conjunction with the fact that last Saturday was National Blueberry Pie Day, I’ll go out on a limb and say that, in the pie line, blueberry pie is probably the best system a person could imagine.

For my money, the finest blueberry pie I’ve ever eaten was from Ruth and Wimpy’s on 1A in Hancock. It was late August, we’d just finished a fine lobster dinner with about twenty of our closest friends, including a couple whose wedding I presided over three years later, and dessert was offered. And the waitress was, subtly, flirting with me.

What made the pie superior was the quality of the fruit, not always the focus of every pie maker. I have to say that I favor the tiniest, most tannic, wild blueberries from the burned-over barrens over the northern part of our fair state for my pies and my cereal. New Jersey me no fat watery blueberries, New Jersey.

And for some reason, pie from the source of the post title above, doesn’t move me. Moody’s Diner is better known for its Whoopie Pies, which of course, are not pies at all.

My grandmother was a camp cook for the YMCA in Massachusetts in the fifties and sixties. Every summer, we would stay a few days at one of the camps where she and my grandfather cooked and caretaked (took?) for their summer vacation. My grandmother’s apple pie filling was as well-balanced and tasty as any you’ve ever had. Unfortunately you needed a Boy Scout hatchet to get through the crust. She was a methodical cook and I suspect she methodicalled the bejeezus out of the crust, which does not lend itself to tender flakiness.

I freeze a long ton of blueberries every year and I’m inevitably out by February, which means a long slow march to the blueberry season in August. Strawberry rhubarb will only take you so far. But I will wait, as I’ve learned the hard way with other delicacies—shad roe, asparagus, strawberries, and tomatoes—that there is a season to everything and that anticipation sharpens an appetite better than anything but literal hunger.

I realize I haven’t said much about crime this month, except on my own behalf, so let me close with this. Whenever you have the urge for pie, consider it a crime to deny yourself.

About Richard Cass

Dick is the author of the Elder Darrow Jazz Mystery series, the story of an alcoholic who walks into a dive bar in Boston . . . and buys it. Solo Act was a Finalist for the Maine Literary Award in Crime Fiction in 2017 and In Solo Time won the award in 2018. The third book in the series, Burton's Solo, came out in 2018 and Last Call at the Esposito in 2019. Sweetie Bogan's Sorrow was published in 2020, to thunderous pandemic acclaim. The sixth book in the series, Mickey's Mayhem, will come out in 2021. Dick lives and writes in Cape Elizabeth.
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8 Responses to Pie Fixes Everything . . . Mostly

  1. So well said, Dick. It is absolutely a crime to deny yourself pie, and Maine wild blueberry is the finest.

    The best I’ve ever had was the road from Ruth and Wimpy’s at a now-gone but never-to-be forgotten Milbridge bakery called the Sugar Scoop. The name suggested too-sweet pie but it wasn’t. Perfect filling with a hint of lemon juice, sublime crust.

    Do you know our own Kate Flora owns a blueberry field? I would kill to be as fortunate.

    • Dick Cass says:

      Thanks, Brenda. Memory’s a bear, though . . We went back to Ruth and Wimpy last year and it wasn’t the same. . . .

  2. Marilyn says:


    “She was a methodical cook and I suspect she methodicalled the bejeezus out of the crust, which does not lend itself to tender flakiness.”

    Perfect!! Very well done. Thank you for making me chuckle this morning.

  3. John R. Clark says:

    You get the pie, I have to do berry smoothies because of health issues, but enjoy every bite.

  4. Kate Flora says:

    As the owner of a wild blueberry field (and runner-up for Maine Blueberry Queen) I have to second your praise of blueberry pie. And yes, it must be made with those lovely small wild blueberries. Oh…and since blueberries are an every other year crop (the wild ones in Maine, at least) and this is a blueberry year, perhaps I should put you on the schedule for blueberry weekend, we we all assemble in the field and pick before the actual professional harvest.

    And here’s a pie tip: blueberries are very compatible with rhubarb, the pie my mother used to call bluebarb …as well as peach.


    • Dick Cass says:

      Knew about the peach but not the rhubarb. Have to give it a try . . And I’m always up for a blueberry pickin’

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