A Commonplace Book of Pie (Photo:
A Commonplace Book of Pie (Photo:

Two years after my piece ran in Gastronomica, a friend introduced me to Kate Lebo via the letterpress zine A Commonplace Book of Pie. Kate Lebo was an MFA student at the University of Washington where I worked so I looked her up in the directory and invited her to coffee.

That first coffee turned into lunches a couple times a year, often at various haunts on University Way. We talked about food, writing, and, of course, pie. I introduced her to the editor of Gastronomica, and they later published her poem “Rhubarb.” I cheered her over kabobs when Chin Music Press offered her a contract to expand her zine into a book. It was released to the world in October 2013.

Kate toured heavily to promote the hardcover A Commonplace Book of Pie. She invited me to co-host an event at the University of Washington bookstore that would primarily be a conversation like the many we shared since meeting.

The evening was terrific fun. Our easy banter mixed well with a full house. Students from Kate’s brought pies they baked for attendees to sample while waiting to have their book signed. Chelsey Slattum, Kate’s publicist, even slipped me a business card for Chin Music Press publisher Bruce Rutledge.

It sat on my desk for four months.

Chelsey reached out in April. Bruce wanted to meet. He had been in the audience that night and later read my blog which, by that time, now had more than 50 entries.

Lunch was scheduled for May 6, 2014 at the Banana Leaf Café, blocks away from Kate’s event that started it all

Thanks, Kate.



the biking piewalla


A dabba presents the perfect container for baking, transporting, and eating single pie servings. (Photo A.V. Crofts)
A dabba presents the perfect container for baking, transporting, and eating single pie servings. (Photo A.V. Crofts)

This post originally appeared at  Washington Bikes/Bicycle Alliance of Washington.

I sold my car two years ago and my bike became my ride.

The shift came with all kinds of freedom: parking, traffic, and buckets of savings on car insurance, gas, and maintenance. I also get to eat like a horse and burn it off on my commute.

But for all the benefits, a few challenges presented themselves when four wheels become two. One of them involved dessert. Pie, in particular.

As a pie maker, the safe transport of a freshly baked pie on my bike has particularly vexed me. Seattle’s hills are not gentle on a pie.

The answer, I discovered, was a dabba.

Dabbas, the stainless steel stackable lunch boxes most widely used in India, have starred in recent films like The Lunchbox or the documentary The Dabbawallas, featuring the astonishing network of 4,000 delivery men (dabbawallas) who deliver more than 100,000 lunch boxes daily to offices across Bombay.

Many years ago, friends gifted me with a personalized dabba from Bombay. Until lately it was a patient presence in my kitchen, awaiting action that never came because my leftovers required a microwave’s touch.

One morning I had a flash of inspiration: what if I baked personalized pies in each of the dabba layers? What if, after they baked and cooled, they were stacked, tucked into my bike basket, and served as is at the dinner party?

Look, Ma. No pie pan.

The inaugural pies were a mixed berry trio of raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries. This particular dinner party was an intimate affair, so I baked off three individual pies in the oven in their dabba layer and let them sit until they came to room temperature. I then assembled my dabba and hit the road.

My first transport test was the five miles from my home to the University of Washington Seattle campus. I checked the pies upon arrival at work—perfect. They remained unscathed from the elevation gain from the Burke-Gilman Trail to the Upper Fremont dinner party destination, where I triumphantly handed over the dessert dabba to my hosts. We ate them under an outdoor canopy. All that was required was forks.

That’s one of the keys to reveling in the biking life: it might take me longer to reach my destination, but I’m happier (and hungrier) when I get there. Especially when I arrive with pie.