Hidden treasures

So last Friday I turned in my intent to enter the pie contest at the food co-op. I was a bit surprised at what I saw. Back when I lived in Syracuse, the co-op was nestled in a residential area in an old green arts and crafts-era neighborhood. It wasn’t enormous, certainly not the size of a supermarket, but it had about 1,000 square feet of space, and carried groceries, dairy, fresh made tofu, floating in a plastic container like edible styrofoam, and all manner of non-perishables and even some cleaning supplies, which is where I first learned the All One Insanity of Dr. Bronner. You could go insane (or blind) just trying to read the labels on that stuff. I volunteered there a few hours a month, not much, but really enjoyed my local milk in glass bottles. That was a splurge for me, though, so I only got the milk maybe once a month. So much for my graduate stipend. I still don’t know how I lived on $700 monthly checks.

Fast forward to 2008 and the Walla Walla co-op has just opened at a physical location. There is a front room in a converted house, across from a now-defunct grocery store, and they carry about as much as anyone could pack into 250 sq. ft. of space. So these people need some fundraising! At $5 for pie and $2.50 for senior citizens, they’re gonna need a lot more pie contests to make it work. Unless there’s other fundraising. I mean, of course there’s other fundraising. Their money making enterprises can’t be:

1. Annual Pie Contest

2. Bake Sale

3. Wet T-Shirt Contest

4. NEW Monthly Pie Contest

At any rate, dropping of my pies, which each seemed to weigh about 15 pounds (I think it was the 6 sweet potatoes that I had mashed up into them), I guessed that the contest was a lot more about building community than raising money.


one of the sweet potato pies

one of the sweet potato pies

It was in the assisted living center portion of a grand Oddfellows House. At this point, I hear “Oddfellows” and I think buried scrolls and gold ala Nicholas Cage in National Treasure. Poor Masons. I wonder what George Mason himself would have made of that awful flick.

Anyway, these people are decked out. It was like MTV’s Pimp My Ride did a special there one day, because the walkers and the scooters everyone was using were swanky. I think one of them might have been an amphibious vehicle to boot. Several residents saw me huffing my way through the building — I can only image what I must have looked like, a bit fat guy with two heavy, sticky pies on each hand, waiting for the elevator. I invited a few curious folks to come to the contest. The administrators of the building pumped in swing music the whole time, and I thought that if these folks were like my father, they probably enjoyed the tunes. It was, actually, the happiest assisted living center I’ve ever seen.

Something like 20 pies were in the contest. Three or four apple pies, cherry pie, banana-coffee pie (affectionately named “Banaoffee,” which I turned over again and again in my brain, trying to figure out what language it was in), citrus pie, individually peeled concord grape pie, apple-raspberry pie, and many others. By the time the contest opened to the public, the judges had already made their selection, which, we were informed, used a point system and was “very impressive.”


pie contest volunteers

pie contest volunteers

 I walked in at the same time as a woman who I met in September at the HIV fundraiser. That woman is a fantastic cook. Thus the pies she was carrying in with her daughter I figured would be very good indeed. Turns out her 13-year-old made the pies, which were citrus pies.

She said she was upset because it was supposed to be a lemon pie, but they hadn’t had enough lemons, so she had to use lime and orange as well.

“Well, sometimes those changes make your pie come out even better,” I said.

“That’s what I told her,” said her mother.

I put down my pies and saw the table sag ever so slightly under their weight. I was then marked as Pie #2. The citrus pie was Pie #3. I left and went back home (less than a block away), and waited for the judges to do their thing. Some friends who were visiting us that weekend walked over with us to enjoy some pie. We were allowed to taste from 5 pies, which made quite a pile of confection on our paper plates. I should have strategized with Susanne so we got a wider variety of pie, but we all ran off like bugs to the light, looking at pie after pie.  We sat back down with our selections and waited about an hour to hear the results. We also could vote for “the people’s favorite,” so I went for the citrus pie, which was in fact very tasty.

The winners this year were:

First Place: Peach Custard Pie (darn! that’s the pie I was thinking about making before I decided on sweet potato pie)

Second Place: Marionberry Pie (DC readers of this blog may find such a thing suspicious, as it calls into question whether there was any cocaine in the pie)

Third Place: Apple Raspberry Pie

So, this intrepid pie-baker lives to fight another day. And the nice part is, the girl won for people’s choice with her very tasty citrus pie. It was also nice to see some friends at the event, all stuffing ourselves on pie. As in the picture below.


Pie eaters

Pie eaters

Clearly, Susanne is pissed we didn’t win!

Tags: , , , ,

Categories: transplanted


Subscribe to our RSS feed and social profiles to receive updates.

2 Comments on “Hidden treasures”

  1. Jen
    December 13, 2008 at 3:55 am #

    I met you in the Patisserie today, well, sort of. I was with the woman from the pie contest (in the photo above) along with a gaggle of folks and my one-year-old son who was providing extra entertainment by crawling under strangers’ tables, yours included. Just wanted to say that I enjoyed your blog just now. As a Walla Walla native, it’s especially fun to read about it through the eyes of someone new to the area. The precision with which you describe the smell of the paper plant, for instance, is impressive. That’s it exactly, but I’ve never thought to give words to it before. Or Sung’s barber shop — my husband LOVES the whole vibe there as well, and is always quite pleased with the hair cuts (though she has a strange habit of trimming one eyebrow and leaving the other one bushy). Anyway, I’ll be hoping to run into you again so I can thank you in person. Welcome to Walla Walla.

    • evmaroon
      December 13, 2008 at 4:28 am #

      Well thanks, Jen, I appreciate that. There are days when it’s quite an adjustment! But I’ve been struck by the friendliness of the people here, and the quirky charm of the place. My next task is to “drive out of the fog” by heading to the Blue Mountains. So I’m sure I’ll take pictures and post about that soon. Thanks for the warm welcome.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: