Aron Kay, prepares to hit Phyllis Schlafly, spoken opponent of the Equal Rights Amendment with an apple pie at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York on Saturday, April 16, 1977 (AP Photo)
Aron Kay, prepares to hit Phyllis Schlafly, spoken opponent of the Equal Rights Amendment with an apple pie at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York on Saturday, April 16, 1977 (AP Photo)

One of the secrets of Phyllis Schlafly’s success was the old adage “honey catches more flies than vinegar.” Her Eagle volunteers lobbied politicians with home-baked goodies, such as tea breads and cakes. She promoted the image of the happy homemaker baking a pie – combined with the very powerful image of a wife and mother who is able to influence policy.

When a performance artist who specialized in “pie-ing” celebrities, decided to “pie” Phyllis Schlafly (that is, to throw a pie in her face), he chose apple pie rather than the traditional cream pie. Getting hit in the face with a cream pie is funny, because the surprised victim is covered in whipped cream. Lucille Ball mastered the comedy of being pie’d with great facial expressions as she wiped the cream off her eyes and mouth.

There is no visual comedy in an apple pie because the top crust does not smear all over the face like whipped cream. The barrier of the top crust actually made clean-up a little easier because it does not stick.

My mother was “pie’d” with an apple pie in 1977 and the photo of that action shot made front-page news across the country. She realized that taking it humorously was better than filing assault charges; Phyllis Schlafly never played the victim card.

“Bloom County” comic strip loved to poke fun of Phyllis. In one 1984 strip, a character hacks into the front page of the New York Times and changes the headline to “Reagan Calls Women ‘America’s Little Dumplins’”. In the ensuing uproar, the strip had Phyllis Schlafly responding “Well I’d be the President’s little dumplin anyday.” When I read the strip to my mother, she responded, “that’s right, I would be Reagan’s little dumplin!”

Phyllis Schlafly loved eating apple pie (particularly with vanilla ice cream on top) and homemade apple pie was frequently on our home dining table. But she never made an apple pie herself. I frequently made and baked pies while growing up. Here is my recipe for apple pie. We always used Jonathon apples for the best flavor and texture.

The Perfect Pie Crust

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
8 tablespoons butter
8 tablespoons Crisco shortening
Ice water as needed, about 2-4 tablespoons

Mix together the flour, salt, and sugar. Use a pastry blender to cut the butter into the flour until dime-sized. Then cut in the shortening. Add just enough ice water to moisten the dough and use one hand to pull the dough into a ball. Tightly wrap the dough in plastic wrap so that the flour can hydrate the liquid. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Cut the dough in half. Sprinkle a silicone mat with flour and roll out the dough to fit the bottom of a 9-inch pie plate. Fill the pie plate with fruit, then roll out the top crust and fit on top of the fruit and crimp the edges.

Apple Pie

6 cups peeled, cored, and sliced Jonathon apples
½ cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons potato starch (or corn starch)
½ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons butter, cut up
Egg wash: one egg yolk mixed with one tablespoon water

Mix together the apples with ½ cup sugar and let sit for 2 hours. Drain and reserve the liquid. In a small skillet, boil the apple liquid down to 2 tablespoons of syrup and reserve for the filling. (Please don’t skip this step as it concentrates the apple flavor for the filling.)

Mix the prepared apples with the starch. Add the reserved syrup, brown sugar, lemon, and seasonings. Pour in the bottom dough. Dot the top of the apples with butter. Cover with the top dough. Crimp the edges. Brush the pie dough with an egg wash (but do not brush the crimped edges which can burn). Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes, or until the crust is browned and the juices from the filling are bubbling on the insides. Let cool before serving.

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