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April 26, 2012 | 12:00 a.m. CST
Cynthia Kramer stands surrounded by whole wheat, barley and maple sugar crust filled with rolled oats, maple syrup and walnuts, and she sees a story. She’s making her Shire Breakfast Pie, a Kramer creation fit for Hobbits.
“I’m a total book nerd, and I love the classics,” Kramer says. “I always wanted to do a pie that went with The Lord of the Rings because I’ve always wanted to be a Hobbit.”
Try one of Cynthia Kramer’s latest creations, the Vox Pie, at the Columbia Farmers and Artisans Market on April 29. It’s a lemon curd style filling of butter, sugar, eggs and lemon, drizzled with a smooth feta cream, and honey topping in a buttery cocoa single crust, sprinkled with fresh blueberries.
Lemon and honey are good for the “voice.” Cocoa, blueberries and feta are “diverse” and “alternative.”
“I sing the Body electric;
The armie of those I love engirth me, and I engirth them.
They will not let me off til I go with them,
Respond to them,
And discorrupt them,
And charge them full with the charge of the Soul.”
Kramer: I picked this poem because of the reference to vox (voice in Latin) and its theme of equality. It discusses men and women and appeals to many different people like Vox does. And because Ray Bradbury used the ‘I sing the body electric’ quote for the name of a short story about a robotic grandmother, which ties in Nana.
When someone purchases one of Kramer’s $30 pies, she includes a custom pie plate designed and sculpted by local potter Matt Moyer and a literary allusion or quote she feels references the spirit of the pie. Kramer packages it in a recycled box and finishes it off with a bow.
“I spend a lot of time reading, and you’d be surprised by how many works of literature talk about what the food is,” Kramer says. “They’ll give you this great idea, and then you can put the ingredients you think of together and come up with something.”
Last summer, at the urging of her friends, Kramer started Nana’s Pies. Nana is what her 3-year-old granddaughter, Laila, calls her. Laila often accompanies Nana in the kitchen and gives her input. Although the fruit pies are Kramer’s most popular, Laila’s favorite is the Southern Bohemian Pie. It’s made with sweet potatoes, organic butter and heavy cream, and it’s flavored with cinnamon and nutmeg.
Everything about Nana’s artisan pies is handcrafted. Many of her creations are made the old-fashioned way with a modern interpretation. Kramer uses local or fair trade products when available and designs her pies to have a nontraditional hodgepodge of ingredients such as mixing orange and blueberry. Kramer makes everything from scratch.
Baking for Kramer has always been a hobby — a relief from her high-stress jobs as an attorney and a professor of political legal study at William Woods University. But after her three sons moved away and her husband died, she ran out of mouths for her pies, her favorite food to bake. Baking continues to give her a creative outlet. She loses herself in a world of eggs and flour.
“There are so many cool things you can do with pies and the ingredients, and it just seems like a really good wholesome thing to make,” Kramer says.
Kramer offers more than 40 varieties of pies that she cycles through her seasonal menu. Her website keeps hungry patrons updated on which pies are currently available. She is now retiring her fall and winter pie gallery and considering what to offer this summer at the Farmers and Artisans Market, which opens April 29. Pies sell by the slice at Kramer’s booth, where it’s likely that Laila herself will serve you.