Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

Pies - bygone days and beyond


February 19, 2020 | View PDF

Photo courtesy of the St. Vrain Historical Society

There's a bushel of phrases about pie: "It's as easy as pie," "Bye, bye Miss American Pie," and "You're such a sweetie pie." Pie is quintessential fare around the world, whether it's filled with custard, fruit or something savory.

For John Lehndorff, the highly respected food critic and, more to the point, renowned pie expert, this particular pastry has been at center stage throughout his 40-year career. The Niwot Historical Society asked Lehndorff to share his knowledge of all things pie at the organization's first 2020 lecture on Thursday, Feb. 26. Lehndorff agreed and has dubbed his lecture, "In Crust we Trust, the History of Pies in Boulder County."

He has had his eye on the pie since he was a youngster and his "personal pie path" will be a story he conveys during the presentation. As his knowledge and concentration on the subject deepened, he founded and led the American Pie Council, established the Great American Pie Festival, and went on to judge hundreds of contests locally and nationally.

Why is Lehndorff fixated on pies? "People connect to pie on a deeply emotional level. Almost everybody has a pie story I've found. Usually it goes way back in their childhood and they're standing in the kitchen with an older woman in an apron. Or it's simply this memory of comfort. Often it connects them to something that the family has made for years and years or it's a regional memory," he said.

It's hard to argue with traditions, especially if they taste and smell wonderful, and that's probably a good explanation for why pie is near and dear to our hearts.

Lehndorff's writing came onto the Colorado scene beginning in the late 1970s, when he freelanced for a variety of publications. His gig as the food editor at the Boulder Daily Camera from 1985 to 2000 is likely one of the ways in which readers first became acquainted with Lehndorff. From 2000 to 2008, he was the dining critic for the Rocky Mountain News. These days Lehndorff is a food and music freelance writer and editor, he has a regular column in the Boulder Weekly and also hosts a weekly show called "Radio Nibbles" on KGNU.

Pies and Boulder County are all kneaded up together and Lehndorff will tell stories about the characters and details behind that connection. Among other things, National Pie Day, Jan. 24, is a direct descendent of those goings on.

In addition to learning about the pie's past during his lecture, expect to be let in on where to get the area's best pies. Clearly it's also Lehndorff's mission to compel people to bake pies and he has the know-how to back it up, so be prepared to glean some useful baking tips during his presentation.

"The only way to make the perfect pie is to make a lot of them," he said. "There are variables in making the crust that are challenging, but there are some pretty easy ways to do it. Once you make a pie and show up at somebody's house with it, it makes them very happy."

Pie memorabilia and photographs will accompany the lecture, followed by a question and answer session.

Some time ago Lehndorff brought up the idea of opening the American Museum of Pie. While nothing is in the works just yet, Lehndorff is quick to point out that there are hundreds of other food museums - take the examples of the baked bean and mustard and garlic museums - but a tribute to the pie is flagrantly missing.

"There should be one, it should be here, and I should be the curator," Lehndorff said.

Betsy Lehndorff

Pie expert John Lehndorff addressing attendees at the Great American Pie Festival at the Hotel Boulderado in the mid-1990's.

"In Crust we Trust" will take place on Wednesday, Feb. 26, at the Left Hand Grange, 195 2nd Avenue, Niwot. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for pre-lecture coffee, snacks, and conversation. The presentation begins at 7 p.m. Admission is free to Niwot Historical Society members and $5 for non-members. The hall is handicap accessible.

The Niwot Historical Society's mission is to preserve, collect, and protect the history of Niwot and the surrounding area. To join the Niwot Historical Society, which is a 501(c)3 non- profit organization, an individual membership is $15 and families are $25. All donations are tax deductible. For additional information, please visit the website.


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