Lucy, the Holy Rollers, and the Faithful Fillers
I have a weakness for pie. I blame it on the McLean County Fair. Each summer, the Commercial Club of Underwood sold homemade pie at the fair as a fundraiser. Mom would make pie often for all three days of the fair because she enjoyed making pie and she knew how it made Dad smile to serve her pie.
There is nothing quite as delicious as losing yourself in a tender, peach pie encased in tan, flaky pie crust at the First Lutheran Lunch Stand at the State Fair. When you are shoveling in waist deep snow in January, you cannot help but think about the July warmth and the homemade pie at the First Lutheran fair stand.
For several years, the leader of the pack for making perfect pie crust at First Lutheran has been Lucy Fiest. I recently had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing this warm, gifted, and charming lady. Lucy hails from the Sherwood area and her family farm was located along the Canadian border. It was here that she was first introduced to cooking by her mother at a young age. She taught Lucy how to make buns and bread. Since Lucy was short, she had to stand on a peach box in order to do the bread baking.
Her pie baking skills were put to the test at the age of 14 when she baked and cooked for the thrashing crews. She tells of taking the heads off of five roosters in the morning and dressing them out and then placing them in ice cold well water since there was no refrigeration. I often hear younger cooks today talk about the tedious work of opening a box of frozen food and tossing it in the oven. Perhaps they should consider reviving their interest by serving very fresh chicken!
Folks of Lucy’s generation knew the meaning of hard work, and they did it because they simply had no choice. They are amazing and to be admired for their work ethic and persistence. Preparing between 100-110 pie crusts for each day of the State Fair is huge task and one that Lucy has handled with ease for many years. She does not recall how many years she has done this, but she has been a member at First Lutheran since 1956.
She is a modest person and is quick to share that there were many excellent pie crust mixers before her. She also informs that making numerous pies takes many hands, and she has been blessed to work with many fine pie crust rollers and filling makers. She admits the best part of doing this is the camaraderie and getting to know others members at First Lutheran.
While visiting, Lucy mentions that she was a 4-H member until the age of 19. She was a member of Prosperity Chums, and Ethel Hanson was her 4-H leader. The many life skills that she learned in 4-H have served her well beyond the rigors of baking. She, at one time, had a vending machine business for candy and popcorn starting with 5 machines and building the business to 65 machines. Her 4-H sewing skills aided her significantly in her upholstery business which started when she realized how tattered her sofa looked. Money was tight so she reupholstered it herself! Before long, the neighbors were bringing her many items which launched her successful upholstery business.
Pie bakers are interesting people, and Lucy is certainly proof of that. She enjoys seeing trees grow-an inspiration from her Dad who worked with Soil Conversation. In her backyard are not only shade trees but three apple and three pear trees which make excellent pies. She has been a lifelong learner and shares a tip for sharping knives which she learned from her mother. Simply tip over a crock or pottery bowl and sharpen the knife on the rough ring surface. After all, one needs a sharp knife to trim the pie crust.
After many years of volunteering as “Pie Crust Chairperson,” Lucy is stepping down. She will be missed but knows that there are many other capable hands to carry on the task. She gladly shared these tips for successful pie crust:
Set the lard out the night before so it is easy to work with
Add enough liquid from the start because it is easier to add flour than water once the dough forms.
Feel for softness-the dough should be slightly sticky (This comes with experience!)
Many factors such as humidity, flour, and size of eggs make each batch different
Always appreciate the friendship, laughter, and camaraderie during pie crust making.
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