When Caroline and I started working on this project, one of the first stories I thought of was “Like Mom Never Made.” Lisa McNamara is an amateur baker and an avocational writer who, I knew, had a moving and important story tell. She was exactly the kind of writer we wanted to represent in our collection: someone who might not cook or write about food for a living, but who had a profound story to tell about what food had meant in her life. Also, I had sampled a range of Lisa’s pies and baked goods. I knew she knew her stuff.
McNamara’s obvious story is about how she learned to bake in spite of the fact that her desserts were pretty much verboten in her home. It’s a searching and often hilarious story that involves a Jewish mother, several aunts, a loving brother, an enthusiastic father, a couple of caretakers, a high school boyfriend, two husbands, and an office full of coworkers. McNamara shows us plainly that learning to make good pie is definitely not easy as pie. But really, this is a story of love and great loss and, miraculously, finding love again. I’ve had her Apple Pie recipe for many years, and it’s the only one you’ll ever need. She was generous enough to share it with Cassoulet, so now it can be yours, too.