cakers are a deceitful bunch. In my third instalment of Writers Cooking Caker, Helen Wainman recounts a story about an elderly caker (they’re the worst ones) who managed to fool the entire world. Okay. Maybe just a television producer.
Helen is the author of The Rabbit Hole Monologues, which chronicles her battle with breast cancer. I met her at a benefit for Wellspring London a few years back. When bad things happen to people, they either retreat inwards or reach out. Lucky for us, Helen reached out. The Rabbit Hole Monologues is tender, funny, touching and raw.
Here’s Helen's (sour) cherry pie story:
Many years ago, I produced features for a morning TV show. We were always on the lookout for entertaining, heart-warming stories and heard of an elderly woman who lived in one of the small communities surrounding Lake Erie. We were told she was an elderly widow who spent her time making homemade pies for all the truck stops that lined Highway 401.
How much more heartwarming can you get? So we set off one morning to do the story. We arrived at her apartment and she was as sweet as we expected. We entered the apartment, expecting to see flour on the counters, bowls full of dough, pots on the stove bubbling with fruits ready to scoop into pie shells. But there was no evidence of any pie baking.
“Could we show you baking some pies?” I asked.
“Is that what you want, dear?”
She then opened a freezer adjacent to her counter and pulled out six aluminium containers, each one holding a brand-name frozen pie crust.
Okay. I could understand that. You can’t have everything. A ready-to-bake bottom crust would make it easier for her to make so many pies.
I continued, still hopeful: “Can we see you adding the pie filling?” I was convinced I would finally see homemade pie filling that had taken hours to make. She opened her cupboard doors – and all we could see were dozens and dozens of cans of E.D. Smith cherry pie filling. She grabbed several, went to her electric can opener and opened each can.
Galurgh. Galurgh. Galurgh.
We watched as the bright red, gelatinous goo slowly eased its way out of each tin. Six cans in all. Dumped into six pie crusts. It took seconds.
By this time, the cameraman and I couldn’t look at each other. We couldn’t speak. But I tried again.
“How do you top the pies? I hear you make lattice tops to cover them.”
Up went the freezer lid again. Out they came. Six store-bought frozen lattice tops. We were stunned. There was no visual and we didn’t have a story. “Port Stanley Pie Lady” would be a story all right but it would be told around a dinner table for years to come. To be fair, the sweet old lady never claimed to make homemade pies. But at least we ended up with a recipe for Easy Peasy Cherry Pie.
Here's the recipe, folks. It don't get much easier than this. Thanks, Helen!
2 frozen pie crusts
1 tin E.D. Smith Cherry Pie filling
Place bottom of pie crust in pie dish. Aluminium will do. Dump pie filling in crust. Put second pie crust on top. Bake at whatever temperature pie crust people tell you to use.
The Rabbit Hole Monologues are staged readings for anyone touched by cancer. We are a group of actresses committed to storytelling and outreach. One of our members wrote a series of monologues after breast cancer treatment. There is humour and there is hope. Our mission statement is simple: To laugh….To cry….To think….To talk.
Visit the website.