By Wendell Brock
For years, I’ve heard about this woman Kate McDermott, who lives in Port Angeles, Wash., in little blue house with a raspberry-colored door, and calls it Pie Cottage.
A legendary maker of pies, McDermott is a self-taught baker who learned her art from her Iowa grandmother and has since taught hundreds of people how to roll out dough and fill it with apples, berries, rhubarb and pecans. One of her more famous students was Ruth Reichl, the former New York Times restaurant critic and Gourmet magazine editor-in-chief.
Now, just in time for the holidays, comes McDermott’s “Art of the Pie,” a homespun Bible of pies that’s the most authoritative treatment of the subject I’ve seen since Shirley O. Corriher’s classic “CookWise” and “BakeWise.” Thankfully, McDermott is not one bit pedantic. Rather, she describes her trial-and-error vocation with a humble spirit and Zenlike calm. “Pie is a great teacher,” she writes. “It helped me find my way, even when everything was falling apart.”
A chubby kid who didn’t like fruits and vegetables, later a single mom who lived on a blueberry farm, McDermott discovered on the day her son left for college that she she has celiac disease. A woman who had perfected pie, she had to start all over from scratch. And she nailed it, inventing not only a gluten-free pie dough that tastes good, but also a gluten-free vegan dough to boot.
I love hearing these dispatches from Pie Cottage in McDermott’s soothing voice. Her attention to detail is impeccable. There’s an entire chapter on “The Quintessential Apple Pie,” another on “Savory Supper Pies.”
One of these days, I hope to travel to Washington to learn from the master herself. Maybe she’ll teach this Georgia boy how to bake the Best Peach Pie in the World.
For now, this book is a pleasure, chapter by chapter, slice by slice.