From the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner:
Pie Lady delivers healthy helpings
As fast as the Pie Lady can turn them out – her pies fly. Every Friday, golden-crusted and cream-topped fruit pies touch down briefly at various locations around town before flying off again into the arms of smiling customers.
Pie Lady, Cecelia “Babes” (Lord) Hudson has been making lots of people happy these last couple years. In addition to pleasing her faithful customers with delectable, homemade pies, she donates pie sale proceeds to aid others in need of a helping hand.
“I am always making pies for a reason,” Hudson explained. “Mostly when it involves a child. This is the first time it involves a relative.”
The current recipient of Hudson’s pie making skills is “Baby Michael,” the son of Hudson’s nephew. The 8-month old boy was born four months prematurely, drug and alcohol positive, and is in Seattle receiving a liver transplant this weekend, and treatment for several other ailments.
“I told my nephew that I would help out in any way I could,” said Hudson, who cared for the baby off and on this past spring and summer and visited them recently at the Seattle Ronald McDonald House.
Mass producing pies is nothing new for Hudson who grew up in Nenana. Starting at age 12, she worked side by side making pies with her grandmother, Meda Lord, at Mom and Babes Cafe. “My job was to get up at 3 a.m. and make pies, five days a week,” Hudson said. “We opened at six and then I waitressed till noon.”
Hudson’s hands-on experience shows. She has taken first place twice for her pies at the Tanana Valley State Fair. All her pie crusts are flaky and embellished with perfectly fluted edges. Except for Cool Whip toppings, each pie is made with real ingredients. Hudson doesn’t use mixes and prepares her own glazes for some of the fruit pies. Friday, Hudson sold 38 pies – apple, peach, strawberry/rhubarb, blueberry cream, strawberry cream, banana cream – and six mandarin orange/pineapple cream cakes.
Single crust pies are $15 each and double-crust pies go for $18; cakes are $20 or $3 a slice. Hudson doesn’t take out wages for her time, nor money for supplies. Everything is donated from the family’s food budget. Some family members and friends help out from time to time. Hudson shops food store sales weekly for fruits, flour, and aluminum pie and cake tins. She is always delighted to come home and find a donated bag of flour or can of Crisco on her doorstep. This week a neighbor left a gift of rhubarb from her garden which Hudson quickly incorporated into the popular strawberry/rhubarb pie. Hudson has used up all the blueberries she picked this summer and is hoping to get some donations for future pies.
In the two and a half years since she began selling pies, Hudson estimates she’s rolled out 8 to 10,000 pies in her kitchen. Proceeds are often deposited into patient accounts to cover a multitude of expenses including travel fees, apartment and car rentals. For one five month period Hudson worked five days a week making pies and cakes in her kitchen and selling them in the evening at two bingo halls in Fairbanks “They’re perfect customers,” Hudson said. “They are sitting ducks. They can’t run, because they’ll leave their cards, and dessert just fits right in when they’re drinking coffee.”
The pie sales went to benefit Nicholas Wynia who was fighting leukemia at the time. Hudson has perfected a pie making system with the assistance of her husband, Todd, whom she labels “the best husband in North Pole, Alaska,” and a grown daughter, Rhonda Carter, who manages the American Legion Dorman H. Baker Post. The post allows Hudson to store her pies there in a large cooler, and in return she cleans the kitchen or donates baked items.
Hudson starts making and baking pie crusts Wednesday evenings. Thursdays she goes full bore making fillings. Friday is spent selling the pies at three locations – starting at 11 a.m. at Chief Andrew Isaac Health Clinic; noon at Tanana Chiefs Conference and Doyon Limited. Hudson also delivers a few more to offices around Fairbanks.
“I cannot make enough pies for people who want to buy pies,” said Hudson, who takes phone orders Monday through Wednesday. The stay at home mom and her husband put their children first. There are currently five children at home between the ages of 8 and 13, three of whom are siblings the Hudsons are in the process of adopting.
Hudson leaned on her piemaking skills once before to make it through a difficult time in her own life. Years ago she was going through a divorce and living on her own with her two young children in Anchorage while putting herself through travel school. In addition to crocheting and selling bedspreads and pillow covers to pay the rent, Hudson also made and sold pies. In one marathon session she recalled turning out a record number of 52 pies to make ends meet.
“I was determined I would not go to the (welfare) system,” she said. Hudson said once Baby Michael is recovered, her next mission is to find a way to help Alaska families who stay at the Ronald McDonald House have access to a vehicle to get around in at an affordable cost, like $20 per day.
“It’s so important that their mind is healthy so they are not confined to stay in those two buildings,” Hudson said. The energetic woman, already is thinking of how to solve the problem faced by families of sick children – perhaps approaching a car rental company or local car dealership for help. “Someway, somehow I’ll figure it out,” Hudson said.
Contact staff writer Mary Beth Smetzer at 459-7546.