Lois Forbes’ pies do not merely taste good. They do good, too.
That they taste wonderful is a matter of record, and that record is framed in her kitchen. It is a corkboard on which she displays the ribbons she’s won in baking contests over the years. It is a big corkboard, and it will get more crowded when Forbes adds the red ribbon she won at Washington State Fair’s fruit pie competition Sept. 16.
The contest is a marvel of deliciousness, innovation and precision. Crusts must be tender, flaky, golden-to-brown, not too chunky around the edges and just an eighth of an inch thick. And the bottoms can’t be soggy, either.
The fruit must be plump, hold its shape and nestle in juices that are not too thick and not too runny.
Though the classics delight judges, a bit of invention earns extra points. Dried cherries putting the crunch in a raspberry pie. Cointreau and peaches with blackberries, or rhubarb with blueberries. Almonds with three types of berries. They’re magic you might not be able to identify without reading the recipe.
That recipe, of course, must conform to proper style, just as the pie itself must conform to the proper size. It must be eight inches across, or it loses five points. A state fair pie contest is the only event on the planet in which a bigger pie is not a better pie.
For 30-plus years, Forbes has been playing by the fruit pie rules, and winning with them, sometimes with apples, sometimes with stone fruits. The contest switches fruits each year. This year, it called for berries. Forbes went wild, picking her own huckleberries and blueberries and buying little wild blackberries from a forager friend.
Early on in the pie game, when she was a mom and a nurse and a volunteer and serial baker in Silverdale, she found a source of inspiration at the pie contest.
“One year, an 82-year-old lady won, and I thought, ‘Wow,’” she said. “Now I’m romancing 90.”
Actually, she is a mere 86.
She bakes pies for friends, pies for family, pies for bands of scouts and hikers.
“I love cooking pies,” she said.
And she loves doing good for others.
She belongs to a nurses’ guild that raises money for Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital, and bakes pies for auctions.
In Silverdale, she donates a pie a month to be auctioned off for the Central Kitsap Food Bank.
“I can still have the fun of doing pies, and it goes for a good cause,” she said.
Pies, after all, are the currency of the gods, and the exchange rate on Lois Forbes’ transforms them into hundreds of dollars of community capital.