The season of Lent often means abstaining from an indulgence, a time of doing without. But for the pie makers at St. Michael’s Episcopal Cathedral in Boise and their Lenten Lunch, it’s a time of fellowship and tradition. Using recipes that have been handed down for almost 40 years, the pies are a favorite at the Friday event.
Sally Terrill rolls out pie crusts. “This will be either a coconut cream or a chocolate pie.”
Alongside Sally is her husband, Alan. “Oh, I’ve been here, how many years?”
“This is probably your seventh,” responds Sally Terrill.
Her husband says, “Something like that, probably seven or eight years I suppose I’ve been at it, rolling out pie crusts.”
Sally’s a retired kindergarten teacher. Alan’s a retired engineer. But on Thursdays during Lent, they turn into pie makers, producing 60 pies for St. Michael’s weekly Lenten Lunch. “So you have to make sure you don’t poke holes in the bottom of the pecan pie or you’ll have the biggest mess you ever saw.”
About ten dedicated people show up each Thursday in St. Michael’s Tuttle House kitchen. The faces have changed over time, but the pie recipes have mostly remained the same. Terrill says that’s due in part to one particular pie maker.
“We used to have this wonderful woman that knew everything.”
She’s talking about Helen Bennett, a bit of a legend among the Thursday pie-making crowd. “She was an incredible cook and I think most of the recipes are from her.”
“She was a caterer herself,” says Sally Maloney, who helps organize the pie makers. “Always seemed to know all kinds of things about cooking, she loved the kitchen and she loved to bake and so that’s where some of the recipes came from.”
Maloney says Bennett was one of the original “Episcopal Church Women.” They started Lenten Lunch in the mid-70’s, as a fundraiser for their community work. Bennett and her colleagues came up with the recipes for most of the pies they cook today.
“Coconut cream, chocolate cream, Marionberry, cherry, key lime…”
Bennett passed away about 10 years ago. Since then, the pie makers have tried new pies, or variations on old ones. “We tried peach a couple years, and it’s not a real popular one, my favorite, but it just didn’t fly. If something’s not real popular and you get them left, you don’t try it again.”
But the favorites are mostly left alone, and closely guarded. Like the secret that makes the chocolate cream pie so popular. “It has a little added ingredient to it, but it’s our secret.”
Here’s a hint, don’t eat the chocolate pie if you’re on the wagon. One thing that has changed: the crust. The 40 pounds of pie dough used to be made with lard. Over time, the pie makers switched to Crisco. Now they use only butter, 12 pounds of it, because everyone says it tastes better.
Lunch is $6, and a piece of pie will set you back $2.50. The money raised has helped new mothers learn life skills and gone to the homeless at Interfaith Sanctuary. Some of the money has also be used to refurnish the church kitchen.
But most of the pie makers, like Sally Terrill, don’t worry about the money. “We have a good time, we do a lot of visiting, get caught up on all of our kids.”
Neither does Lois Boulware, who’s helps make the Marionberry pies “Are you kidding? This is so much fun!”
She sums it up this way. “And we get to talk stories. No, I don’t do it because I’m a good person, I do it because it’s fun for me.”
Lenten Lunch will be served today, from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. The pies will be available each Friday through March 22.
MARIONBERRY PIE FROM THE TUTTLE HOUSE
4 cups berries
1 cup sugar
3 TBSP flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 TBSP butter
2 9 inch pie crusts
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Mix berries, sugar, flour, and seasonings in a large mixing bowl. Pour into pastry shell then top with second pie shell. Seal by crimping the edges of the pie crust. Dot with the butter. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown. Can be served warm or cold. May top with ice cream or whipped cream.
Copyright 2013 Boise State Public Radio