Monday, March 8, 2010
My Fried Pie Destiny.
This is the story of a fried pie. Or, more succinctly, how fried pie opened doors for my life.
I have to take you back to 2006 or so, when Vivian and Carl Barnhill came over to Today’s THV and appeared on the morning show there with the famous little half-moon pockets. I produced that show over eight years, and over that time we had a lot of different restaurants and such in. But those pies… they were something else. Something better than all the fried pies I’d ever tried before.
It was something about that crust, buttery and light and a little savory, a family secret closely kept but available to sample for just a buck 75, filled with all manners of good creamy and fruity fillings. Those pies haunted my dreams.
Fast forward to September 2007. After eight years I’d left that station to strike out on my own. I started this blog, this crazy mixed up travel and food blog, just to keep my writing chops. I was thinking about places I needed to go to fill out the fledgling project, and I thought of Ms. Lena’s. I had to go. It took me a few months to get there, but I did go.
All that… has been chronicled in a previous entry (which you can find here). It’s what happened afterward that really changed things for me.
You see, just a few days after I wrote that entry, it was featured on the Arkansas Times Eat Arkansas blog. I went from a blog that might draw five readers a day to one that was pulling in hundreds of views daily. It was my moment.
That was the start of a real whirlwind for me, that took me out of state and all over the place in the first six months of 2008 and then all over Arkansas in the years since. I even ended up as a primary contributor for the Eat Arkansas blog. And somehow, I hadn’t been able to get back to Ms. Lena’s on a Saturday morning for those fried pies.
Sometimes, when you crave something bad enough, you just do it -- no matter how weird or inconvenient it may be. While it might have been more prudent to find an assignment out east of Little Rock to go follow and just add a stop-by to my trip, I found myself unable to wait to satisfy that craving any longer.
So I bundled up my toddler daughter and off we went late one Saturday afternoon, making the 55 minute drive to DeValls Bluff for a little taste of heaven.
When I turned off of Highway 70 onto Highway 33, I could already smell those pies. The scent of that impossibly flaky yet crisp crust permeated the air a block away. We pulled up and I pulled Hunter out of the car and took her in for her first experience with Ms. Lena’s pies.
Vivian came around the corner when we got there, recognized us right away. She’d been alerted that I was coming because of my post on my Facebook fan page. We chatted a bit about old times and about my former co-workers who still come by to visit. Yes, indeed, that day at the station didn’t just draw me into a pie-trance. My fellow morning show folks were similarly affected.
I came out of that shop with a dozen pies -- one of each flavor of the day and another half dozen chocolate pies (my husband’s favorite) -- and placed the slightly open clamshell boxes in the back seat. You have to, if you want them to make it home.
And when he came home from work that night, my husband thrilled over those chocolate pies. And Hunter? She was just as thrilled as her daddy, pinching a bit of crust between her fingers and licking the filling.
You know, I’ve been a whole lot of places these past few years. I’ve learned that pie isn’t just popular around here, it’s an art form. It’s everywhere in Arkansas -- big fluffy meringues and creams, tart and juicy apple and cherry and pear and other fruit pies, and all sorts of variety of fried pies. There’s just something different about Ms. Lena’s… that makes it still worth that Saturday morning drive. That’s something that should really be shared with the world.
I just find that now I'm really in a place where I can do so. That's so cool.