In 2001 at the height of the dot-com boom, disillusioned and having just left her job as a successful web designer Beth Howard walked into a popular cafe in Malibu known for its pie, and tried to order a slice. Told they were “too busy to make any” she suggested they hire her to make pie for them. Asked what her qualifications were, she replied, “I’m from Iowa.”
While people assume Beth acquired her pie baking talents from her Midwestern grandmothers, it wasn’t until the age of 17, during a bicycle trip in Washington State, that she had her first pie lesson. Caught stealing apples from the tree of a retired pastry chef, she found herself put to work in the old man’s kitchen mixing dough by the light of a kerosene lantern. And so—voila—her passion for pie was born! She spent one year in Malibu baking pies for customers that included the likes of Barbra Streisand (lemon meringue), Dick Van Dyke (strawberry rhubarb), and Steven Spielberg (coconut cream).
Born in Iowa, Howard has been on the move her entire life living and working around the world. A writer at heart, Beth is a veteran journalist. Her outdoor adventure and profile articles have appeared in many magazines including Elle, Shape, Travel & Leisure and Sports Illustrated for Women. While on assignment she’s had to sky dive, dog sled, scuba dive with sharks, and compete in the Eco-Challenge, a ten-day multi-sport wilderness race.
In 2009 while living in the tiny Texas border town of Terlingua Beth received the phone call that would change her life. Her husband Marcus Iken had died suddenly of a ruptured aorta, the result of a congenital heart condition. At just 43 years old Marcus’ life was cut painfully short and Beth’s life was abruptly turned upside down.
Reeling from the pain of her husband’s death, Beth moved for a while to Oregon where she and Marcus had lived together for some time. There, as she had done in the past, she turned to pie to help her find peace – or to at least relieve some of the pain.
Then in the summer of 2010 Howard volunteered to judge pies at the Iowa State Fair’s annual August competition. Hoping that a visit to her native Iowa might bring her some relief she planned a pie tour of the state following the fair. During that trip on an unscheduled detour she found herself in Eldon, home of the “American Gothic” House made famous by the Grant Wood painting of the same name.
During that visit Beth learned that the house could be rented. And so, struck by the peacefulness of the setting, that’s just what she did. After a few phone calls Beth had found a new home in an old place. She sent for her belongings and started right away to baking pies-– and to writing.
A firm believer in the healing power of pie Beth has been called a “Pie Evangelist.” It would stand to follow then that her home at the iconic American Gothic House could be called her “pie pulpit.”
On weekends during the summer Beth sells pies from the house at her Pitchfork Pie Stand. When not baking or selling pies she’s busy writing for her blog, which has been named a favorite by both The New York Times and Reader’s Digest.
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