The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

On The Table

June 27, 2012

Church's annual pie sale creates colossal cravings

JOPLIN, Mo. — The list of pies starts off with a couple of your traditional favorites: Cherry, followed by apple. But as the list goes on, it gets a little more interesting: coconut, butterscotch, chocolate, banana, lemon -- all meringue pies.

Then there is pecan, pumpkin and peanut butter, followed by French silk and chocolate cream pie. Sugar-free pies -- apple, chocolate, lemon and coconut -- round out the list.

It’s enough to make a person think he has died and gone to pie heaven. That is sort of appropriate because the pies on the list are all part of the Byers Avenue United Methodist Church’s annual Fall Fiasco Pie Sale.

The annual event begins on Saturday and will also take place on Tuesday and Wednesday. If you’re wondering why a pie sale scheduled around the Fourth of July is called the Fall Fiasco Pie Sale, you probably aren’t alone.

Debbie Beck, the church’s self-described “Pie Nazi” -- so named after the fictional “Soup Nazi” character that was made famous in an episode of “Seinfeld” -- said volunteers, many years ago, first began making pies for the church’s annual fall dinner. The pies were so well-received that church members thought a pie sale would make a great stand-alone fundraiser in the summer.

When they began the summer sale, the church members decided to keep the Fall Fiasco name.

As Beck and some of the other church volunteers sat in the church kitchen last week, they were asked how long the pie sale has been around. There was a long silence. Finally, Beck spoke up: “I don’t know, at least 20 years,” she said.

That’s one way to tell if a fundraiser is successful: if it’s been around so long no one can recall exactly when it began. Beck knows for sure  that the pie sale has been around at least 16 years because two weeks after her now 16-year-old daughter, Taylor, was born, she was in the kitchen making pies for the fundraiser.

The success of the annual pie sale lies in the pies themselves. According to many people that were asked, the pies are not just good, they are “homemade good.” The reason they are homemade good is because the recipes for the pies come from a variety of families, who have passed them down from generation to generation.

“If you enjoy cooking, you know that grandma’s recipes are the best,” Beck said.

It was Beck’s grandmother who taught her to bake. One of the most important pie-related lessons Beck learned from her grandmother was how to peak a meringue. If you happen pick up a meringue pie at the event and notice the peaked meringue, you can thank Beck’s grandmother.

With the exception of some minor prep work, the pies for the Fall Fiasco are made fresh on each pick-up date. It takes some 20 volunteers to churn out the pies, and they work around the clock: The volunteers normally begin baking pies at 6 a.m. and quit at about 8 p.m.

The cost is $10 for a 10-inch pie or $5 for a 5-inch pie. Those interested in ordering a pie may call the church at 417-624-3647.

You may arrange to pick up your pies between the hours of 4 and 6 p.m. on June 30 and July 3, or between 4:30 and 6 p.m. on July 4. The pies can be picked up at the church’s Family Life Center at 18th and Byers Avenue in Joplin.

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