There are three kinds of people in the world, Kate McDermott will tell you: pie-makers, pie-eaters, and pie-seekers. The epic pie odyssey of New Yorker writer Sue Hubbell 20 years ago concluded that you could not get pie west of Oklahoma; you got cobbler. But that was in 1989.
There's another argument: There are pie people and there are cake people. It's a distinction that eludes me completely, since I don't consider myself either one, or didn't until I watched McDermott bake a pie. After all, people have been making pie since the dawn of civilization (since the advent of milled grain, at any rate), and McDermott's mission these days — she used to be a musician — is to teach the mechanics as well as the art of pie-making to whoever comes through the door.
Begin, she insists, with King Arthur unbleached all-purpose flour. "I want wheat growers to take this class," she says, "so they can see what a difference the right flour makes." Then Irish butter, foil-wrapped Kerrygold, with high fat content. Leaf lard; she gets hers shipped from Pennsylvania. Regular sugar, a touch of seasoning (salt, nutmeg), some thickener so you don't get fruit soup.
For the fruit, at this time of year McDermott uses Frog Hollow Cal-Red peaches, shipped in single-layer boxes from the farm in Brentwood, Calif. McDermott's ex, Jon Rowley, started the Peach-O-Rama promotion for Metropolitan Markets with these peaches, using a refractometer to measure the sugar content: at least 13 brix (percent sugar).
For this day's demonstration at Diane's Market Kitchen in Post Alley (at Madison), McDermott uses peaches that measured 20 brix, off the charts. "The omigod peach," McDermott calls it.
The details of the pie-making process are not complicated, as long as you keep everything ice-cold, and won't be repeated here. They're at McDermott's website, and she teaches pie-making classes in Seattle and Port Angeles.
Trust me that when you taste the pie, with its flakey crust and luscious filling, you will become a believer. The very act of pie-eating will turn you into a pie-seeker. You are a disciple now, reciting the mantra: Be happy, eat pie.