What led you to start your pie baking project & cookbook, 50 Pies 50 States?
I started my project 50 pies, 50 states in 2015 when I was in the process of applying for my permanent residency in the United States. I thought it would be fun to learn about the country I had chosen to call home in a medium of food that I think is the most American, pie! It also gave me something to think, dream and do while I was in the midst of so much visa paperwork. I took the project a step beyond pie and did my best Nora Ephorn, Nancy Meyers romcom grand gesture and gave the pie to someone I knew from that state as my token of affection for them. The project started as my love letter to the country I have chosen to call home and became so much more than that. It further taught me about connection through food, it made me exercise giving my friends their roses whenever I could and it allowed me to explore what being American really meant to me. The project helped me find my way home. All of this led me to my now editor Michael Szczerban cold emailing me asking me if I would like to write a cookbook to which I replied, OH YES! Getting to put my journey to find my way home from pen, page to pie has been an absolute dream come true!
How did you decide which type of pie would represent each state?
The beauty of America is that most states have some sort of state food, fruit or regional cuisine that is very tied and unique to that state. Some of the pies I built based on experiences with food I had in that state or food that the person I was dedicating the pie to held dear. Some pies like Alabama built itself with a state berry of blackberry, a state fruit of peach and a state nut of pecan! Other states I just went straight out of the confines of what you might traditionally think of pie like for Nevada! I did a pie that was based on an All you can eat buffet because I wanted you to feel that in that state you can have your pie and eat it too!
What’s your favorite part about the New York creative community?
My favorite part about the New York creative community is that it knows no bounds and you can find connection through whatever medium you work in. From illustrators, to fibers artists, bakers and chefs everyone wants to share their stories and most of all inspiration is free flowing wherever you look!
Do you have a favorite pie you created/baked for the book?
Picking a favorite would be so so hard it's like picking a favorite child!! The pies I am most excited for people to see are the pies I developed for the book that aren't part of 50 states! I baked a series of pies in the book that represent where I grew up (Singapore, Indonesia and Hong Kong), where I went to college (Savannah) as well as where I live now (Brooklyn). I kinda saw these pies as a way for you to get to know me, like going on three dates with me before you decide you're going to go on an all state road trip with me! haha!
How many of the 50 states have you visited and which state do you want to visit next?
I've hit almost every state on both coasts and sprinkles of states in the south and in the midwest! I've been to Hawaii! I have a really cheesy scratch off map of all the states that I've slowly been working on. I get to check off two states this year which I'm so excited about: Arkansas and Oregon! I had a whole solo trip planned for Alaska before the pandemic so I think that's where I would love to go next or maybe Idaho! Taking a nap next to a river in Idaho sounds like an absolute dream!
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