Barbara Bird Lee launched a piemaking crusade in 1969, and she's been marching since.

Not that the young mother, whose three babies were under the age of 1, needed projects to fill up her time back then."When my baby, Liz, was 8 months, I had a set of twins arrive prematurely, but I still had to work on the pies," Lee recalled.

Lee delivers a poignant message as she shares her patiently researched, patiently practiced skill of making pies.

The vivacious mother of five daughters encourages her audiences to master distinctive home-arts skills gleaned from parents, grandparents and other loved ones while the opportunity exists.

Piemaking was the domain of Lee's mother, Eileen Bird. Bird made hundreds of pies for family gatherings, for caterers, women's clubs, church dinners and the family bowling alley lunch counter.

But Bird passed away suddenly, leaving a family stunned and empty.

"I was the oldest girl," Lee said, "and I decided it was important to keep the things that my mother did alive. Not only for me and my younger sisters, but for my little girls, who wouldn't have a chance to know their grandma."

And so Lee began her piemaking lessons with no recipes or instructions, only memories of watching her mother at work.

Lee claims her mother inherited the baking prowess from her grandfather, George "Beefsteak" Harrison, who for many years ran the hotel on Springville's Main Street.

"Grandpa, a handcart pioneer, became ill during the crossing and had to stay behind with the Indians. He finally found his brother who was serving in the army and joined up. He was assigned to cook in the military, and he kept cooking the rest of his life," Lee recalled.

But Grandpa Harrison cooked with his hands, fingers and even knuckles.

"He'd measure by his knuckle," Lee explained. "How far his knuckle went down the bottle, then he'd dump."

And Grandpa Harrison kept those hands tucked under his apron when it came to techniques.

"He made these secret sugar cookies, and he wouldn't let anyone know how to do it. The story goes that my grandma spied on him one day when he was making the cookies, just trying to figure out what the ingredients were, and he threw flour on her."

Despite Grandpa Harrison's secretive ways, Bird managed to mimic his piemaking skills.

And Lee has inherited a generous share of the piemaking ability.

Lee's fruit pies are distinctive because they bake at 500 degrees for only 10 minutes.

"If you use a hot fruit filling and a tin, not a glass pan, the pie bakes to a delicate golden brown in that time," Lee explained.

Lee continues to share her skill with friends, neighbors and school groups but emphasizes baking with her own daughters.

"My five daughters all know how to make pies, but leaving home seems to improve their abilities. It took three long-distance phone calls from New York City to get Jeanette through her first peach pie. Now, she's got it," Lee added.

"But as long as Mom's around, we let her make the pies," admitted daughter Susanna, 20.

Susanna made her point - Mom won't always be around.


Recipes listed:

Eileen's Pie Crust

2 rounded cups flour

1 scant cup shortening

1 teaspoon salt

About 5-7 tablespoons cold waterCut or mix in flour, salt and shortening, using tops of fingers. Add enough cold water to mix together and make soft dough.

Cream Filling

2 cups milk

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs, separated

2 rounded tablespoons cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Scald milk in a heavy pan; mix cornstarch, sugar and salt together. Add dry mixture to scalded milk all at once and stir vigorously with egg beater. Add small amount of mixture to egg yolks to warm them, then stir egg yolks all at once into filling. Cook until thickened, stirring frequently. Add vanilla and a few drops yellow food coloring, if desired.

Note: For chocolate cream, increase sugar to 1 cup and add 1 ounce unsweetened chocolate while milk is heating. For coconut: add 1/2 cup coconut to filling after it is cooked. For banana: thinly slice 2 bananas and place on bottom of baked shell; pour cooled cream filling over the top of bananas. Top with whipped cream if desired. Makes 6-8 servings.

Apple Pie

5-6 apples with 1 cup water, or 1 can (1 lb.) apples

3/4 cup sugar, or to taste

2-3 tablespoons cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon grated orange rind

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Dash of nutmeg

Dash of salt

Bring apples to boil; cook until slightly soft. Blend cornstarch with sugar and stir into apples; add remaining ingredients. Put hot filling into pie tin lined with prepared crust. Moisten crust edge with water, then layer top crust over fruit and seal. Crimp edges. Spread small amount of milk on top of pie before baking. Bake at 500 degrees for about 10 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

Note: Unusual baking time is correct. Lee emphasizes two points for success with fruit pies - fruit filling must be hot and a pie tin, not a glass pie plate, must be used.

Strawberry Glaze

1 3/4 cups crushed strawberries and juice

1/2 cup sugar

1 package strawberry Danish dessert

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Whipped cream

1 quart fresh strawberries, washed and hulled Microwave berry juice, sugar and Danish dessert for 6-8 minutes or until shiny. Stir in lemon juice and cool. Spoon over pie crust filled with fresh strawberries. Top with sweetened whipped cream and garnish with fresh strawberries. Makes 6-8 servings; 1 9-inch pie.