Pie Auction 101

The word "auction" conjures up many associations -- art, cars, cows, bachelors, antiques, produce -- but last weekend while in Seattle, I added another commodity to the list: pies.

For some of you folks who come from the country, the pie auction may be old hat, but for this city mouse, it was a culinary first.

Pies on the bidding table at Seattle's first Blues for Foodfest. (Kim O'Donnel)

I got wind of the crusty hullabaloo from Seattle community gardener Deb Rock, the brains and organizer of Blues for Foodfest, a blues festival with new twist. Rock, who coordinates a "P-Patch" community garden that I profiled in last year's blog space, spearheaded this musical event with the goal of raising money and awareness for the 70-plus Seattle community gardens that donate several tons of produce to area food banks every year.

My friend Leslie and I, pie auction virgins in the flesh, offered to bake a buckle, a fruit dessert closely related to the cobbler (and considered close enough to a pie for these purposes). There was no huckster in a straw hat, egging people on in a sing-songy fashion to bid higher and higher (check out this YouTube link of a teenager wrangling more than 100 bucks for a lemon meringue pie); instead, this auction was silent, featuring a beautifully displayed table, each goodie accompanied by a bidding sheet, with bids starting at $15.

The selection ran the gamut, from a zucchini-goat cheese pie to an apple pie with a black pepper blackberry glaze, totalling 25 some treats that garnered more than $500. The highest bid was just over 40 bucks for a mile-high Gravenstein apple pie made by my friend, Kate, whose middle name really should be changed to "Pie."

It was truly exciting to watch eager eaters bid on pies as I rung my hands in anticipation of how much our buckle would earn (20 bucks. Sigh. There's always next year.). Pie theater is fascinating stuff, a mix of the culinary and the citizenry, where the palate meets the podium. It got me thinking of the potential for $100-dollar bids and several kinds of competitive categories and what a simple lil' auction o' pies could do to make some serious cash.

And then, of course, I thought of you, who hail from all corners and crevices and sidewalk cracks, and probably know a lot more about pie auctions than this first-timer. Got any good pie auction tips or tales to share? Send them over.

By the way, due to popular demand, I tweaked the amounts for the buckle topping to give it a more "crumby" feel and here's how it goes:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 stick unsalted butter, cold, cut into dice.

For those of you familiar with the above-linked recipe, the original amounts were melting right into the batter and many found this result to be disappointing. Check above link for complete recipe details, and I'll be sure to update topping amounts in the body of last year's blog post later today.

By Kim ODonnel |  September 6, 2007; 12:22 PM ET Community Gardening , Desserts
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I'm interested in a recipe for a zucchini-goat cheese pie recipe.

Posted by: Kelly | September 6, 2007 1:01 PM

Best crumb topping for apple or peach pies is as follows:
3/4 c. flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cold butter, cut into bits

Quickly work dry ingredients into the butter with your fingers. It will form nice lumps and crumbs that brown beautifully.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 6, 2007 1:11 PM

Hi Kim, this is not on the topic at hand, but I was wondering if you could do a blog post or chat about Rosh Hashanah recipes--especially main courses that don't involve having my oven on for a long period of time (since it's still hot) or using a grill (since a lot of us apartment dwellers don't have that option). Thank you!

Posted by: Amanda | September 6, 2007 1:40 PM

Hey Kim,

Our small Lutheran church does a pie auction every other year to send a busload of teenagers off to the mountains. Each of the last two auctions raised between $2500 and $3000, with some of the pies getting bids of over $150. We did, however, have an enthusiastic auctioneer. I think he helped those prices go up, up and up.

Posted by: B | September 6, 2007 4:25 PM

Do you have the contact info for the Pie Auction? I'd love to donate to it for next year!

Thank you.

Posted by: New Seattlite | September 6, 2007 4:51 PM

My sister used to enter the local pie competition and every year, she won second place for her offerings- all made without sugar in deference to her husband's dietary requirements. One year, she decided she was tired of second places- so she made my grandmother's Linzer Torte (almond puff pastry crust, homemade custard filling, and fresh raspberry and lemon juice top), a dessert guaranteed to make all guests groan in happiness as they ease themselves into the nearest couch.

She marched in, found a judge and said "You get ONE slice to taste- the rest is MINE!" and left.

She won both best pie and a special catgegory- "Most Erotic Pie."

Posted by: gourmand | September 6, 2007 7:09 PM

New Seattleite: Contact festival organizer Deb Rock at the Interbay P-Patch at interbayfoodbank@hotmail.com and she'll get you on the mailing list for next year's event.

Gourmand: Thank you so much for sharing your tale -- I love it!

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | September 6, 2007 9:02 PM

I got the recipe for the Zucchini Goat cheese pie on epicurious.With a few minor changes(using only onions,garlic,extra basil and zucchini)-viola a fabulous savory pie.Enjoy!

Posted by: Heidi,Interbay P-Patch | September 11, 2007 9:58 PM

Thanks for attending the first annual Blues For Food Fest a super fun way to bring awareness to the 20 tons of organic produce grown by community farms and gardens and donated to foodbanks, meals on wheels programs and shelters for women and children here in Seattle. The pie auction was serendipity. The beautiful pies created put smiles on our faces and helped us reconnect as a community that appreciates all things handmade, home grown and just plain good. We found out that pies, friends and music really do make us happy! See you next year!

Posted by: Deb Rock | September 13, 2007 1:49 AM

Our Seventh-Day Adventist church holds an annual pie auction in the dreary cold and dark days of January, when people are just looking for an excuse to get out of the house. It is winter in Minnesota afterall. Our auction usually brings inabout $2000-$3500 a year and we usually auction off 25-35 pies. Here are some great tid bits that have helped us have a great time...
We sell silly bidding paddles that are decorated funny and have cute sayings like..."I've got my husbands checkbook", "Pick me Pick me", "Big bidders go to heaven", "Trump's first wife", "Spending my kid's college fund" and so on. When people come they donate a $1 to rent a paddle and then they are referred to whatever their paddle says all night long...Very funny. And the winning bid goes to "Quick my husband just left the room!" or the pie goes to..."I will be sleeping on the couch tonight!"
We also have a pie tasting contest for couples to guess what pie they are eating, all while wearing silly blindfolds.
There is a pie eating contest for the kids
We sell a few pies by the slice to offer participation for everyone even if they don't have a big fat checkbook.
There is usually a "mystery pie" pie in the face
Every year we ask people to include a short description of their pie, along with who made it, and why it is special. These cards are read right before each pie is auctioned off, people have gotten really creative and have written silly and sweet poems, included funny facts, and heartwarming stories. These description cards really help to set each pie apart and make it unique. If you would like more ideas about pie socials or other church social ideas just contact me at wttrana@hotmail.com

Posted by: Tiffany Trana | January 10, 2008 2:59 PM

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