Maybe it was the promise of pie… because after all, who can resist the golden, sweet, yumminess of freshly baked apple pie? Or maybe it was Granny Jen herself… I don’t know but something special was a foot in Chestermere recently. And this special something drew over 50 people, young and old, together to experience the old world skill of honest pie craftsmanship.
The story starts off, of course, with a blue ribbon – or should I say, the lack thereof. Prior to awarding Chestermere with their ACE Communities Award last year, our ACE Ambassador Ian Hill, had chatted with a few of Chestermere’s residents. This is a common practice for Ian as he likes to know a bit about a community before he arrives to kick off their big ACE Ignite event.
As part of these conversations, Ian chatted with one Jennifer Peddlesden, a long-time resident of the town. As their conversation went on, Jennifer expressed her dismay, as one of the organizers of the local County fair, at the fact that there wasn’t one single pie entered into the Fair that year that was worthy of a blue ribbon.
"Well, why do you think that is?" Ian asked her.
"I don’t know," Jennifer Peddlesden replied. "People just must not care anymore."
"Maybe," Ian countered, "but maybe the real problem is that people just don’t have the opportunity to learn how to bake a proper pie. My question to you is the one that’s really going to count. If people in town can’t make a pie and it breaks your heart, what are you personally going to do about it?"
It was an interesting question that Ian posed that day. Because, really, how many of us are unhappy with aspects of our communities? We might complain to our neighbours or to our spouses about the things we don’t like… but how many of us rise up and take action to rectify the things that we see as being problematic?
Well, Jennifer Peddlesden decided that it was time for some action and out of that conversation, Granny Jen was born. And Granny Jen became militant about pies. She rallied the troops, worked with the city, networked, advocated, and made a whole lot of test pies.
The result? The Chestermere pie making workshop – a community-driven workshop centered on the grand old art of making a proper pie. This cultural phenomenon was a big hit in the town to the point that there was even a waiting list. Those who were the lucky attendees represented the most diverse demographics I have seen at any ACE event. There were families, seniors, women in their twenties, teenagers, and a father with his three young sons. And there were all there to learn how to make a pie.
Undeniably, there is something soothing about baking a pie… a comforting reminder of a time when things were handcrafted with care. The event reminded me of true community gatherings, barn raising, and knitting and pickling circles. All of these things are part of our heritage and too many of these skills are being lost. But not in Chestermere… not that day!
To have witnessed the generations come together to learn one of this ‘old world’ skills was truly an awesome thing. The teenagers were busy taking snap shots of the pies with their phones and uploading to Facebook, the veteran pie makers swapped pastry secrets, and Granny Jen oversaw it all.
Because I guess it does take a village to bake a pie.
For a video of the actual pie-making workshop featuring Granny Jen see: http://www.viddler.com/explore/aceleader/videos/41/