September 6, 2010

When I started this blog , I was trying to write myself out of the blues. My landscape design business was really quiet (post economic meltdown) and I cooked to keep myself busy. Cooking my way to happiness.

This week, Thursday, the day the NPR story ran, more than 7,000 of you came by for a visit. It’s more than overwhelming. And I’m more than grateful.  I’m doing what I love. Cooking, tinkering in the kitchen, putting up food, and writing about it. I’m feeling pretty lucky. I have a chance to set off on a new path, now – at age 53? Why ever not.

I was standing in line this morning, waiting to enter a Pie Contest sponsored by the Bethesda Central Farm Market. (A fundraiser for Manna Food Center.)  It was a great day, the first fall breezes blew through the market in the morning, the end of summer sun warmed everything by noon. There were nearly thirty pies entered.

There were beautiful heirloom tomato pies, pecan pies (one chocolate pecan that I would have eaten by myself), an apple pie that smelled deliciously of cinnamon and sugar. A grasshopper pie – haven’t had one of those in years! And many a peach, nectarine, blueberry and mixed fruit. There were double crusts, single crusts, crumbles crusts, lattice crusts, and mine, a sour cherry pie, covered with stars. I used the filling I canned with the Food52’ers last month.

Bonnie Benwick from The Washington Post and Carole Sugarman from Bethesda Magazine were the judges and a crowd gathered to watch them sample. I stood with some friends, and some competitors and we watched. My friend’s daughter Leah whispered sotto voce “They’re trying your star pie, now!” and we all laughed. It was such a nice convivial group gathered waiting for the results.

And guess what? I won! The Grand Prize – a $100 gift certificate to one of our favorite Bethesda restaurants, Raku and a pretty blue ribbon. I’m a sucker for a blue ribbon.

Here’s what I’ve learned in the last few months. It’s never too late to do anything that brings joy to your life.

Start a blog, learn to use social media (Facebook and Twitter) which leads to meeting fantastic, warm, generous, people (we’re all ageless on Twitter.) And even enter a pie contest.

This couldn’t have come on a better day. It’s our 11th Wedding Anniversary.

Best Pie Crust
(from my mother, Jan, and my grandmother, Bea, and very likely Madeline Kamman)

8 T unsalted butter, ice cold and cut in cubes
1-1/3 c flour
1/4 c ice water

In a food processor, pulse the butter and flour until it’s sandy and in pea sized lumps.
Dump in all the cold water and run the processor until the crust comes together in a ball.
Form into a disk and chill for 4 hours, or overnight (better.)

No food processor? No problem. Blend the butter and flour with your fingertips (if your hands are naturally warm, cool them under the faucet before you start.) When the flour and butter are sandy and in pea sized lumps, add the ice water and blend with your fingers until it comes together.
Turn out on a countertop and press the ball out with the heel of your hand, pushing away from you. Gather the dough, push away again, gather and STOP FUSSING.
Form into a disk, even if you think it’s not very homogenous. Chill for 4 hours or overnight.

I’m trying to blog my way to the AARP Orlando@50 conference. This blog post is an entry in their competition to find the official blogger to travel to and cover the event. Find out more about the conference here.

36 Responses to “Happiness is Sour Cherry Pie and a Big Blue Ribbon”

  1. Winnie

    I am so excited for you! What an amazing month you have had- you deserve all the happiness you feel today…and more. And congrats on your wedding anniversary too 🙂

  2. Danielle

    Congrats, Cathy! Nice to know I may have a possible grand prize pie winner in my pantry…I will have to find a contest to enter! However, I'm sure your winning pie had more to do with your mad cooking skills than those canned cherries. 😉

    Happy Anniversary! xoxo

  3. wendy

    Congrats on a much deserved win!! sorry I didn't stick around long enough to see the blue ribbon. Enjoy the excitement!

  4. mary

    It's 8:22 in the morning and you are making me cry. I love happiness. Congratulations on your pie and cheers to the happy life that you made for yourself.

  5. THE Tough Cookie

    What a wonderful anniversary commemoration: a 1st place blue ribbon! Congratulations Cathy, on 11 years of marriage, blogging and blue ribbon pies. And, a big WOOT for being 50+ and blossoming!

  6. Amy

    Congratulations, Cathy, on all of your successes: the NPR piece was wonderful, the ribbon well-deserved (and a bonus dinner out!), as well as your wedding anniversary! This is a lovely and eloquent post. It really never is too late to do what you love! Kudos!

  7. Jen

    Found your blog because of NPR (and the music of the pings). I then proceeded to loose myself in reading deeper and deeper into your archived posts..have now passed it along to our CSA farmers, and posted it on my own blog. Congrats on the win; it's much deserved! When I began my food preservation journey four years ago, I never expected to find a vital online community that I adore as much as my Ohio farming community. So here's a high-five, and warm hug from the fields of NW Ohio…way to go blue-ribbon winner!

  8. Holly Keegan

    Cathy- what a HAPPY day for you! I'm sure the warmth of your personality shined through in that pie. It was a winner before they ever tasted it! Well done and congratulations. 🙂

  9. RecipeGirl

    Your pie looks delicious! I enter a pie every fall in our community's pie contest. Last year I got a blue ribbon w/ an Apple-Dulce de Leche Pie. Maybe I'll try your recipe this year! Happy anniversary!

  10. Anonymous

    Cathy, I had never considering canning, ever, in my entire 41 years of life. I listened to NPR on Thursday as tomatoes plopped into pots, water splashed, and finally, jars sealed with a pop. You made it sound so easy. This morning, for the first time ever, I canned fourteen jars of lemon vanilla jam with my five year old daughter. Who would have known how satisfying a simple "pop" could be? I might become a canner after all. Thank you for saying yes to NPR and letting America into your kitchen. -Diana

  11. MrsWheelbarrow

    What nice comments from all of you! There might be some tears here…. We've had a great anniversary and I feel blessed with all kinds of new friends. xoxo

  12. Carol @NYCityMama

    CONGRATULATIONS!!! And Happy Anniversary!! I will honor you this fall when I replicate the recipe! Good luck on winning the travel contest!! xoxox


  13. Rachel Palmer

    Congratulations Mrs. Wheelbarrow! I first heard you talk about canning on NPR. I am excited and inspired to hear of your blues turned to happiness. Thank you for sharing your real life with strangers.

  14. Eliz

    What a wonderful anniversary present! And I hope you have seen that Food News Journal has posted a link to your blog and this post – expect more visitors 🙂

    I LOVE cherry pie – I will have to try this soon…


  15. Susan from Food Blogga

    Congratulations! I love when good things happen to good people. I'm so happy for you.

  16. Leppy

    I am one of those that came to your blog from the NPR broadcast. My husband listened to it and then had me listen to it since I just had brought home a big box of tomatoes! congratulation on your blue ribbon! That is very hard to do in a pie contest!!!
    I live in Orlando and hope you get to do the blogging for the AARP conference!

  17. Maria at Fresh Eats

    This is all so wonderful, and I think this is just the beginning for you! It is fabulous to see my food friends recognized for their many talents and abilities. Much happiness to you. : )

  18. Kelsey B.

    congrats Cathy! I LOVE the pie with the blue ribbon and wish you a wonderful happy anniversary!

  19. Sherry Parfait

    Congratulations Cathy! Your pie is an stand-out even in the picture. It looks inviting!

  20. Flartus

    Wowsa, what a fantastic weekend! Congratulations twice over.

    I made your lemon & thyme fig preserves this weekend, and it's fantastic. Fortunately we had just a little bit extra that wouldn't fill a jar, so we were able to enjoy it and still admire a shelf full of little figgy jars. (Photo on my blog, toward the end.)

    It was super easy (other than our funnel being too big for the wee jars we had–sticky mess, but so worth it!) Plus, Miss Chef bought herself a fig tree last week, so your recipe may become a tradition with us. Thank you!

  21. Windows That Work

    I made Mrs. Wheelbarrow's – Fig, Honey, Lemon, Thyme Confitures this weekend. The final product came out delicious. I'm going to do one more batch but I'm going to leave out
    the thyme this time. It's pretty overpowering.

    A couple of things-

    I didn’t have a canner – my local hardware store wanted $69.00. I "reshaped"
    a cake cooling rack and placed it in the bottom of my 10" stock pan to lift the jars the 1"
    off the bottom. I also added my rice cooker rack to add a little extra support.

    I purchased a canning funnel $2.99 and a Jar Lifter $1.99 – genius!

    I was unable to get an actual example of how to wrap dishtowels in such a away that would keep the jars from touching eachother as well as the sides of the pan – so each jar got a dressing.

    so much fun – thanks for your inspiration! xoxo

  22. Flartus

    re: our little jars: We were kind of forced into buying them during strawberry jam season when our usually trusty grocery store had no regular half-pints. I've never seen them before; they're made in Italy (am I silly for never considering Italians did canning??) You can email me at flartus at hotmail if you really want more details; I still have the boxes they came in.

    Besides being too small for the funnel, they are also not reusable, since regular lids & rings don't fit. But they're gonna be great for gifts!

    (Oh, and I was interested by WTW's comment above…we found the lemon overpowering and the thyme difficult to taste! Too funny.)

  23. Jessica

    It was so much fun meeting you and your husband and Louie at the market! I was lucky enough to get a slice of your pie after the judging – and I knew as soon as I tried it that it was a winner (I was the one with the nectarine tart). It was delicious – the crust was perfect. I'm looking forward to trying out your crust recipe this fall when I experiment with a pear pie I've been working on. Take care!

  24. MrsWheelbarrow

    Hi Jessica, It was nice to meet you, too. Thank you for keeping Louie entertained! I thought your tart was lovely. Hope to see you at the market!



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