Food can carry any number of different meanings to any number of people. And sometimes specific foods can carry an unmatched power to comfort -- as we savor every bite of a family favorite, the taste, smell or even texture of a dish can conjure long-dusted over memories of other places, people and times.
For Chicagoan Teeny Lamothe, pie is one of those all-powerful foods. After reaching a dead-end in her 9-to-5 job a few years back, she decided to turn a personal hobby she picked up from her mother into a professional pursuit: Pie baking. To hone her craft, she has embarked on a year-long "Tour of Pie," traveling each month to a new city to apprentice at a different bakery.
To find support for her ambitious endeavor, Lamothe has created an IndieGogo campaign. The money she raises will help cover her travel and cost-of-living expenses in addition to purchasing additional pie ingredients. her long-term goal? "Saving the world one pie at a time."
Continuing our "Can They Kick It?" interview series, featuring up-and-coming locally-crafted crowdfunding efforts, The Huffington Post spoke with Lamothe about why she wants to become "the best darn lady pie baker," as she puts it, possible.
HP: What inspired your "Tour of Pie"?
TL: I was sort of at a crossroads last year trying to decide whether I wanted to go to pastry school or not. I knew I wanted to bake, and specifically that I wanted to bake pies, but I wasn't sure how to go about it. I decided I really liked the idea of apprenticing and I decided that, rather than just going to apprentice at one place, why not turn it into a whole trip where I'd get to travel and meet a whole bunch of pie mentors? So I created the tour.
(Scroll down to watch Lamothe's IndieGoGo campaign video.)
Have you always been into baking pies or has it been more of a recent pursuit?
My mom was a huge baker. She had a full-time, 9-to-5 job, but in her free time she would bake. She also had all these tiny tins she had for me to bake next to her. It was sort of like playing house. I didn't really think much of it going up through college in undergrad, but then in this last year, I sort of picked it up again. I would bake like two or three pies a week for friends' birthdays and just for eating and I realized that it made me very, very happy, whereas my 9-to-5 wasn't cutting it anymore. I use all of my mom's recipes, if I can, and she gave me her cookbook just before I left for Chicago, so it's been sort of a mother-daughter life thing. A life of baking.
Do you have any particular favorite pies that you love to make?
As a kid, growing up, my favorite was cherry pie. On our birthdays, my brother and I never asked for cake, we always asked for pie and mine was always cherry. That's still my favorite summer pie, I guess. I've also sort of grown into strawberry rhubarb, though I hated it as a kid because it tasted too tart. Now I really enjoy it. So, my all-time favorite is cherry, but my new favorite is strawberry rhubarb.
So what was your "Aha" moment when it came to dropping everything and devoting your life to pie, in many ways?
I would say there were probably two sort of big moments. One was that we had a CSA last year and one day we got a pie pumpkin in our box. My boyfriend noticed there was a pie recipe in the box and he asked me if I knew how to make pie. I remembered that I was really good at making pie. A couple of months later, we had established a Sunday night tradition to make a bunch of pies to stockpile for the week because we both really like it. After a couple months of baking every Sunday and for friends' birthdays, I realized that our lease was up in August and I had to choose.
How did you go about choosing which shops would be included on your tour? Was it an overwhelming process?
It has been, but some of the places have made it easy. I sent out about 30 e-mails to different pie shops and bakers and realized that bakers don't really read e-mails! Some of them said no and it was easy to check those off the list,, but some said yes. For those who said yes, I looked to see if I had friends living in the area to make it plausible to do. In some cases, when I did have a friend living in a specific city, I sort of badgered those bakeries into letting me come.
Any particular favorites from the tour so far, or places you're really excited to be heading toward?
Seattle has been my favorite so far. That was the first stop of the tour in September and it was just phenomenal. I worked at a place called High 5 and the people there were amazing. They made me feel like all of this was accomplishable and that my way of doing it was very cool. I need to get in touch with a pie company in Baltimore called Dangerously Delicious Pies because I would love to work for them. Last week, I just started my shift at a place called Petsi Pies in Boston, and that's also been great so far.
As for your IndieGoGo fundraising campaign, are you confident you're get to your goal? Had you ever done any crowdfunding like this before?
You know, when I first launched the campaign, it was a super overwhelming feeling that this is real now, that it's actually happening. Now I've sort of settled into it and it's sort of calming to know that people are so supportive. It helps you realize how wonderful people are and how supportive they can be. And I'm of two minds in terms of making my goal. Part of me feels that absolutely I will make my goal because you have to think that way when you do something like this, but the other thing I've come to realize is that it's a huge show of support and I'm happy whatever the end result is.
And what is the itinerary going forward for you?
I'm here in Boston until mid-December to help with the holiday season, which I'm really excited about. It's the month of pie and it's going to be great. January is Chicago, and I have a bakery called Sweet Sensations lined up for that. I'm also going to try and find a second apprenticeship while I'm there because January can be pretty slow for bakeries in general. There are a bunch of pie places popping up recently in Chicago so that might make it easier. Then I've been in touch with a woman in Iowa who owns Cathy's Pies, so that might be it for February.
Anything else people should know about your campaign?
I think pie is sort of up-and-coming and I'm happy to be in the place I am. Support pie!
As of Nov. 11, with just under a month to go, Lamothe, having raised just over $1,150, is about one-fifth of the way to her $6,500 fundraising goal. Click here to help make her "Tour of Pie" happen and here to track her progress.
If you have a Chicago-based Kickstarter or IndieGoGo project that you'd like to see featured in "Can They Kick It?"? Get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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