Episode 5 February 11, 2019

Blueberry Hand Pies with Keia Mastrianni

“Pie is love,” says baker and journalist Keia Mastrianni. Listen to her make blueberry hand pies as she untangles her own story. It’s a journey about loving her community, her partner, and herself while pursuing her passion for joy and justice.

Follow Keia’s baking adventures on Instagram at @MilkGlassPie. Keep up with her food and farm writing at @Keiaishungry.


Jen Nathan Orris: [00:00:05] This is Skillet, the podcast where we cook together and listen to each other. I’m Jen.

Cass Herrington: [00:00:10] And I’m Cass.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:00:11] You know, I think February might be my favorite month. I love any excuse to hunker down by the fire.

Cass Herrington: [00:00:20] With fuzzy slippers or a podcast, right?

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:00:20] Or Netflix, I’m not going to lie.

Cass Herrington: [00:00:29] I’m all about the stand-up comedy specials lately.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:00:32] Oh yeah. But once in a while, my interests include a love story.

Cass Herrington: [00:00:32] Like romantic comedy? Not really my thing.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:00:38] But stay with me here. This is a story about loving yourself and loving your community.

Cass Herrington: [00:00:38] Great. So we’re not talking about the gushy stuff.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:00:40] Well there is a little bit of romance, in the form of pie.

Cass Herrington: [00:00:43] How to Lose a Pie in 10 days? I’m listening.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:01:01] Well, I’m super excited to introduce you to today’s storyteller. Her name is Keia Mastrianni and she makes the most incredible pies. They change with the seasons: peach pie in the summer, squash pie in the fall. The crust is flaky and buttery…

Cass Herrington: [00:01:01] You can’t just describe a pastry to me like that. You’re making me hungry.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:01:05] Aw, that’s right. You never got to eat that pie. I recorded this before you were my partner in crime at Skillet.

Cass Herrington: [00:01:10] Skillet B.C. — before Cass. So take us back to this episode of Skillet B.C. Tell me more about Keia.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:01:23] So Keia lives in Shelby, North Carolina and she’s the powerhouse behind Milk Glass Pie. Among other things, she makes these amazing fruit hand pies. You know, hand pies? Two layers of pie crust and a big dollop of filling inside. You fold the dough over the filling and crimp it shut.

Cass Herrington: [00:01:32] Like empanadas. Or fancy pop-tarts.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:01:33] Exactly, some people call them turnovers. So Kia came over to my house for this episode. She packed up all her pie making supplies right down to a microplane to the lemon. She also brought these gorgeous blueberries she got earlier that week from a nearby farm.

Cass Herrington: [00:01:54] Sounds like you have everything you need to make a perfect hand pies.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:01:54] Well not exactly perfect. Hand pies, like life, can get a little messy.

Cass Herrington: [00:02:06] Yeah, but messy can be good. I’m all about learning to love the imperfections. Seems like the first step to understanding your story.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:02:07] Actually, Keia and I got into a conversation about that, and we discovered some things about her story along the way.

Cass Herrington: [00:02:15] Messy pie can also be tasty.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:02:15] Absolutely. She also shares her belief that love is pie and talks about how she uses baking to build relationships, whether she’s comforting a grieving friend or opening up her heart to a partner.

Cass Herrington: [00:02:25] I totally get that. Cooking is my love language. Let’s hear it!

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:02:28] Go ahead, Keia!

Keia Mastrianni: [00:02:30] I’m Keia Mastrianni and today we’re gonna make blueberry hand pies. So here we’ve got a pound of all purpose flour. [fade out]

Keia Mastrianni: [00:02:36] I was born in Santiago, Chile. I was adopted by two New York Italian parents. They came and scooped me up and then I was raised as a Mastrianni.

[00:02:50] [fade in flour and butter tossing sounds].

Keia Mastrianni: [00:02:50] I’ve got my half pound of cold butter. It’s been in the freezer and it’s diced up and I just add that to the flour mixture.

[00:03:01] [fade out flour and butter tossing].

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:03:02] Did you ever eat foods from Chile when you were growing up?

Keia Mastrianni: [00:03:05] No I didn’t. I did attend a preschool that I did some, you know, there was a lot of cultural learning so we would make Latin foods and learn Spanish and things like that. The intent with my parents was to kind of introduce some of that culture to me early on and so I still have childhood memories about making tortillas in that class. I remember we all got like a Latin name and mine was Magdalena and we learned songs in Spanish. So it’s weird that I have those memories of remembering the language and in those times now that I think about, it’s like why does that stick out in my head? So I guess it connected with me in some way.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:03:50] Yeah and how food and music have a way of doing that, to kind of transporting us to other places and other cultures.

Keia Mastrianni: [00:03:58] Yeah. And I remember the smell of tortillas cooking, which was always just like a very comforting smell. Mm hmm.

Keia Mastrianni: [00:04:06] And I have a bench scraper.

[00:04:09] [tap tap tap of bench scraper].

[00:04:09] I use as my tool to cut the butter. So I kind of try to cut the large pieces of butter into smaller pieces.

Keia Mastrianni: [00:04:19] So one of my childhood memories with my father was we would always stop by the Wonder Bread Store where we lived in the D.C. area and we’d pick up like loaves of Wonder Bread and they’d always have the like fruit pies. I think they were Entenmann’s or Wonder Bread pie. So there was like blueberry and cherry and apples, the sugar was like frosted on the outside and the filling was super super sweet but I always remember that was something I looked forward to with him and I just remembered that now who you’re talking. [laugh].

Keia Mastrianni: [00:04:52] Once I kind of get the larger pieces cut down, I start using my hands now. Just kind of pinching and squeezing and just smearing some of the butter so it’s kind of like flat streaks of butter instead of large chunks. Sometimes I use my hands I put the butter chunks into my hands and toss the flour on it and smash it with my other hand. So any opportunity I have to stick my hands and things is I go for it. And with berries like we’re gonna have blueberries it’s kind of can be a mess because I just get our hands all dyed blue purple.

[00:05:28] [tinkle of ice water in measuring cup].

Keia Mastrianni: [00:05:28] From here we add our ice water and then I’m going to toss the water with the flour and start just kind of moving it through so it all absorbs. And you know it’s kind of like it goes through this metamorphosis here where this sandy flour starts to turn into a little bit shaggy or dough and you start to see little, kind of ragged pieces of dough forming.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:05:57] It looks totally different from how it looked just a minute ago. It’s amazing!

Keia Mastrianni: [00:06:01] Yes. So it just kind of like takes on its own, you know, it transforms.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:06:07] I think baking itself was kind of this like a conduit to change, in a sense. I think it kind of came into my life at a time where I was needing something. To me, baking pie from scratch, baking anything from scratch, is is just a way to be in touch with something that’s real, right? So we’re used to manufactured things and we’re used to process stuff, and people don’t take time to sit down to cook something anymore or bake anything from scratch. And so for me, it was just like a very tangible way to get back to something that’s real. And I guess at that moment in time I feel like that was something that I needed. So I guess it was a conduit to my own transformation, but it was also just like a respit. It was like a place for me to to just be and I think through that, like if you’re able to give yourself that time, I mean, just like anything else in life, it’s like if we give ourself time to be in one space you can often come to some realizations about yourself, right?

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:07:14] And what did you learn about yourself?

Keia Mastrianni: [00:07:20] I, I don’t know. I mean, I think it’s just, I think for me everything is about kind of getting rid of all the things that are not authentic to me. And so I think I just learned about what I wanted more. You know, like what are the things that feel real to me what are the things that I value in this life that are important? And so I think, for me, it’s kind of like shedding layers of the onion so to speak. So every time I’m connecting with that very real tangible thing: baking, sticking my hands in flour, working with dough, I’m kind of getting back to that, you know, shedding those layers and getting to my real self in a sense. I don’t know if that makes sense.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:08:10] It does.

Keia Mastrianni: [00:08:11] But we all get caught up in whatever it is we’re caught up in. And I think for me at certain points in my life I lost sight of who I was and whether that was through you know drinking and partying too much or that was being in the wrong relationship or even just being in the space where we’re trying to find ourselves where you feel a little lost and untethered. I wouldn’t say, I mean, I was lost in a sense but I was just kind of in active alcoholism and addiction. So I just, I moved down to Florida and that’s where the perfect storm occurred that allowed me to realize I needed to stop drinking.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:08:53] Were you making pie at that point?

Keia Mastrianni: [00:08:55] No.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:08:57] When did you start making pie?

Keia Mastrianni: [00:08:59] I moved to North Carolina in 2010 and I did get sober in 2007 and so 2010 I moved to North Carolina. I was in a new place. I didn’t really know anybody so I fell back on what I what I had always done like through college which was serving tables and working in restaurants and so that’s what I did. The pie making didn’t come for a little bit.

[00:09:26] [blueberries pouring into a pot].

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:09:26] Let’s just pour the blueberries into the pot?

[00:09:30] Ok.

Keia Mastrianni: [00:09:30] So I’ve just got one lemon and I’m just going to zest it into the blueberries.

[00:09:36] [microplane tapping on pot].

Keia Mastrianni: [00:09:36] When I moved to North Carolina I was finally surrounded by farmers markets and the climate felt like one that I could just start growing my own food. So I dug up my backyard and planted a big garden and started growing food. And that’s when I started meeting farmers, and not just meeting them, but like getting to know people at the farmer’s market and getting to talk to them and getting to visit farms. And I guess I was I was falling in love with food and farms and also like North Carolina at the same time. I think that started the evolution of becoming really interested in food and realizing that food probably held a larger significance in my life than I thought it did when I first moved to North Carolina. And at some point I had ventured out and decided I wanted to learn how to make pie. So I drove to Marshall, North Carolina to Smoke Signals Bakery and I met Tara Jensen. I got there and was just like kind of amazed, you know, sometimes serendipity works in people’s lives where you’re just like on the right path and you meet the right people. And so I got to meet her and get a little bit of her story and then I found out that she taught pie classes, like she taught baking classes in this little one-room bakery. So a month or so later I went back and took a pie class with her and that was like a super revelatory experience. I think I was going through some personal life changes then too. I was moving towards the end of a marriage and so I was kind of seeking out these experiences that were like I don’t know if they were comforting or just something that just felt tangible. You know I guess when you’re losing something it kind of feels good to like put your hands into something that’s real. And so I think for me baking continues to move me towards my more authentic self I guess.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:11:36] Yeah, yeah.

Keia Mastrianni: [00:11:37] I didn’t think we’d get so deep, Jen. What are you doing to me? I feel like I’m going to start crying.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:11:42] Oh my gosh.

Keia Mastrianni: [00:11:42] This is like Barbara Walters.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:11:44] Well, feel your feelings, but like I said, if you’re feeling like this is, like you’re uncomfortable or…

Keia Mastrianni: [00:11:50] No, it’s good. I’m just an emotional being so I could just like, you know, it like brings tears to my eyes. A lot of these things like I’ve never said them aloud. I actually really appreciate this because it’s like I’ve kind of been mulling over it, like, I don’t know if you ever had this where you like, what is my story? Well, I don’t really have a story. And as we’re talking here, I swear to goodness, like some of these things I’ve never said and I’m like, well, I guess there is a story or a thread in like even connecting the dots between what that meant to me I didn’t realize it. [voice wobbles]

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:12:29] Oh you’re amazing. Thank you for going there with me. I’m gonna get you, oh my gosh, we don’t even have any tissues. I’m gonna get you a paper towel.

[00:12:40] [gas stove click].

Keia Mastrianni: [00:12:40] All right. So another transformation is these blueberries. They really go through many stages here. They’re like the blueberries from the basket right now, but they start to get like super glossy and they get dark and it’s kind of cool to watch it. And if you want you can like smush some of the berries a little bit and break it up a little bit. They’re like little jewels, like little blue pearls.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:13:08] Then Keia took something really special out of her basket.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:13:12] Oh yeah. Tell us about this ingredient here.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:13:14] It’s a glass bottle filled with shrub. Shrubs are drinking vinegars made from fruit, vinegar, and sugar. This one is made with strawberries, lemon verbena, and camomile.

Cass Herrington: [00:13:25] Ooh, is it sweet?

[00:13:25] Yep, it’s sweet and sour. When Keia pours it into the blueberry filling, it’s kind of an alchemy of flavors. The tanginess of the shrub compliments the sweetness of the blueberries and they’re both transformed because of each other.

Cass Herrington: [00:13:37] Sounds like chemistry. Is this where the love story comes in? I mean, the tagline for Keia’s pie business is “Love is Pie”

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:13:37] Well now that you mention it, the shrub is made by someone really important to Keia, her partner, Jamie. He actually grows and forges the ingredients himself. They sell his shrub and her pie side-by-side at pop-up events, and in my opinion, Keia’s pies are at their best when she stirs a little shrub in her filling.

[00:14:06] Shrub meets pie, pie meets shrub. How did Keia and Jamie actually meet?

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:14:08] Well, Keia is a journalist as well as a baker, and they met when she wrote an article about his farm. Maybe she should tell the story from here.

Keia Mastrianni: [00:14:16] The first Christmas we ever had together, he had bought me Four & Twenty Blackbirds pie book and in it it just said “Merry Christmas. Love is pie.” So that you know became a part of the business tagline which it’s funny because we met [when] I wrote a story about him and the title of the story was “The Chef’s Farmer” which inevitably, that is his business’s name now.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:14:38] So you found it together.

Keia Mastrianni: [00:14:40] Yeah, yeah we did.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:14:42] Do you remember the first pie you baked for him?

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:14:45] I do, yeah. I baked him like a buttermilk chess pie and it was like we had this thing going on. I had this house in Charlotte that I lived in and he worked a market for his friend. They sold seafood and so he would work this market and I would just like do my market thing on Saturday mornings and then he would come over when he finished and we’d have lunch or whatever. So it was on a Saturday and I decided I’d bake him a pie and so I baked him a buttermilk chess pie which is pretty simple and easy and he came over after market after his day of working and I gave him some pie and he liked it. You know, he said no one ever made him a pie before. So I figured that was like a plus side on the like pros and cons of this woman and I definitely won on that day.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:15:44] Check in the pro column. She can make pie.

Keia Mastrianni: [00:15:46] I also, I also feel like, yeah, how do you snag a rural boy from Cleveland County You bake the man a pie.

[00:15:59] [rolling pin on dough].

Keia Mastrianni: [00:15:59] I’ve never been able to roll a perfect dough circle.There’s people who can and I don’t, ever. And you know what, we can do this together because once I laminate it then you can roll it out again.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:16:14] Oh perfect. Very cool.

Keia Mastrianni: [00:16:16] Yeah.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:16:16] I’m no pastry chef but I can follow instructions.

Keia Mastrianni: [00:16:27] I like to have a lot of filling, as much as I can. So I try to scoop of bunch in and then I start at the top and then just kind of seal it. I don’t have a 100 percent success rate on hand pies. I call them the tasty rejects. The tasty rejects are the best because they like explode in the oven and then we just have to eat them.

[00:16:56] [rolling pin on dough].

Keia Mastrianni: [00:16:56] I think sometimes the best thing you can give people is your time. And also like to make somebody some food is like a very intimate act. And so oftentimes I find myself, when people who are in a time of need, like making some food or just showing up to be present. And I think that’s like a huge gift you can give people. I don’t have like a lot of funds to like give people money to help them get through tough times, like I can just show up with pie and be like this is what I can offer you. I’ve had a couple experiences and they both kind of involve a similar tragedy in two people’s lives and one was a dear friend of mine in New York. She had lost a baby near full term and so I I was up in New York for a work thing and we hadn’t known each other too well but we were kind of partners in this project. And when I was in New York she reached out and invited me to her apartment and I had only known her professionally and I found it surprising that she would invite me to her space, especially during this super vulnerable time, super devastating. And you know I went there and spent time with her, just sitting on a couch in her little apartment. We’re like, well, let’s order some pie. So she knew I was a baker but we ended up doing the Caviar ordering service and we ordered Four & Twenty Blackbirds pie and that was delivered to her apartment and we got an obscene amount of pie. I don’t even know how many slices and we just like sat in her apartment and ate pie together and I cried because I’m a crier and and we just shared this moment which to me like I always cherish that because I’m like, this person didn’t know me and she invited me to her house and then we ate pie and somehow in that experience, and I think pie was a big part of it, we’ve been friends ever since and she will always be like a super dear friends. Just like ever since then it was a very personal thing to do.

Keia Mastrianni: [00:19:14] And now these buddies go in the oven.

[00:19:25] [oven door opens].

[00:19:25] [oven door closes].

Keia Mastrianni: [00:19:25] Let’s set a timer.

[00:19:26] [timer dings].

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:19:26] Let’s eat pie!

Keia Mastrianni: [00:19:26] Let’s eat some pie.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:19:26] Are you a critic of your own work?

Keia Mastrianni: [00:19:29] I am, but this is pretty damn good. [laugh]

Cass Herrington: [00:19:36] We’ll hear more from baker Keia Masstrianni in just a minute.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:19:48] We’ll talk about her collaborations with chefs of color throughout the Southeast, and since she’s also a journalist, we’ll talk about equity in food media.

Cass Herrington: [00:19:48] Any more personal stories?

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:20:00] Yeah, she shares a story about food and music that left me with a huge smile.

Cass Herrington: [00:20:00] Stay with us, we’ll be right back after the break.

[00:20:00] [music fade in].

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:20:00] Skillet it is brought to you by… you!

Cass Herrington: [00:20:06] A huge thank you to our new supporters.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:20:07] Honestly, I can’t believe how many people came through with Apple Podcast reviews and donations.

Cass Herrington: [00:20:12] Donations, you say?

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:20:12] If you haven’t heard, we are now accepting donations at www.skilletpodcast.com.

Cass Herrington: [00:20:20] That reminds me of a pledge drive story.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:20:20] If you didn’t know, we both got our start in public radio.

Cass Herrington: [00:20:35] This story is actually kind of sweet, and it ties into this episode.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:20:35] Go on.

Cass Herrington: [00:20:35] It was the tenth day of pledge drive. The donated food rations were thinning out, the calls were less frequent. Out of desperation I offered to bake a pie for the next caller with a contribution.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:20:42] Did the phone ringt?

Cass Herrington: [00:20:42] Many phones rang. It was raining calls. So much so I had to spend the next week baking multiple pies from multiple donors. See pie is love!

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:20:55] Awww, and we’re definitely feeling the love with this episode.

Cass Herrington: [00:20:55] We want to keep sharing the love with you. If you’re able please head over to www.skilletpodcast.com to make a donation.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:21:00] Any amount makes a big difference. We’re hoping to travel for season one and it’s exciting to think about where we can go with your help.

Cass Herrington: [00:21:08] If you’d like to show your support, but donating isn’t in your budget right now, we understand. We’d love it if you wrote a review of Skillet on the Apple Podcast app instead.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:21:21] Reviews tell Apple to recommend the show to more people.

Cass Herrington: [00:21:21] So does a five star rating. So if you want to pause and tap five stars we’ll be here waiting for you.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:21:31] In fact, we’ll be here for you for the rest of season one, which runs through March.

Cass Herrington: [00:21:31] Help us gear up for season two with a review on the Apple Podcast app or a donation at www.skilletpodcast.com

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:21:45] Thank you, dear listeners. Now on with the show.

[00:21:46] [music fade out].

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:21:46] Picture a Southern breakfast with all the fixins.

Cass Herrington: [00:21:52] So biscuits, grits, all the good stuff.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:21:52] Now consider the hands that make a big meal like that — something today’s storyteller Keia Mastrianni thinks about a lot. Like at the collaboration she did this summmer. She joined a crew of incredible chefs. Bryan Furman from B’s Cracklin’ BBQ, biscuit queen Erika Council, Greg Collier from The Yolk, and Todd Richards who just wrote a cookbook called Soul.

Cass Herrington: [00:22:13] Sounds like a fantasy football team for food! What’d they make?

Keia Mastrianni: [00:22:18] Well, we had brisket, Brian’s famous brisket. Greg did scrambled eggs and then he makes like some of the best grits in the world. But not only that, he like rolled up with some like heirloom corn grits that he likes steeped in corn stock. I don’t even know what he did but they were like super corn-flavored and creamy and delicious. So that was incredible. Erika did her famous biscuits and it had a little bit of black pepper in there. Greg did cucumber and tomato salad and then I did, I called it cafeteria slab pie and it was just like a big old peach pie.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:23:01] You’ll find Keia collaborating with chefs in Atlanta or Charlotte or even Puerto Rico where she’s doing some remarkable reporting as well as cooking. She often collaborates with chefs to color like at the breakfast we were just talking about.

Cass Herrington: [00:23:17] I’m curious how these meals come together… like how do they decide where to have them?

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:23:17] We did that inside the Koffee Kup Cafeteria, which is a black-owned business on the west side of Charlotte. It was really cool to be able to come into that space and support their business too like Greg and I had talked about where we wanted to do it. We have a lot of great relationships with people in Charlotte who would offer up their space but I think it was really important to us to support another African-American owned business. And Greg had had a relationship with Mr. Crowder and so it just seemed to make sense to do it there. I feel fortunate to have a lot of good friends in the food community and it’s kind of fun now to see that I have friends across the south a lot of us travel to do the things that we do so our food community is tight knit. Even though we’re kind of spread out and I think that it’s the relationships that really create collaborations. I feel intentional about just reaching out to people who I admire and respect for the work that they do.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:24:19] Yeah just from seeing your photos together it seems like such a team effort. Everybody coming together and contributing their talents and everyone in the photos looks incredibly happy to be eating that breakfast. You all look thrilled to be making it.

Keia Mastrianni: [00:24:34] Yeah yeah. I mean, I think that’s the beauty of collaboration. It’s like, you bring your talents to the table and I’ll bring mine and let’s make something together that brings people joy or makes people happy or helps people in the community one way or another.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:24:50] If you could imagine a more equitable food culture, what do you think that would be like?

Keia Mastrianni: [00:24:55] I don’t think food should be a privilege. I think food is a human right. And so I think equity in my head starts really with just the basic food that we pull out of the ground. So you know, I’m lucky enough to live with a farmer and we get to eat a lot of the things that we grow. But I think that a lot of people don’t have that opportunity. You know they grow up in places where they don’t know what fresh food looks like. And so, I mean, this is such a layered question in so many ways, but I think it starts with with you know giving our our most vulnerable populations the opportunity to have the same human right, you know, to eat fresh food number one. And then, you know, I live in the food media world. And so there’s a lot of really good work being done by people. I think we’re kind of experiencing this kind of like sea change. People are gaining awareness about equity and and the problems with equity, like the problems that things are not equitable in the food media landscape. So people like Julia Turchen are doing really cool things like creating a directory. I think it’s called Equity at the Table (EATT) and that’s a resource for editors and publishers and people in power to hire people of color queer people and non binary individuals to come work for them you know so I think all that kind of stuff, I think there’s writers writing about that topic and people were starting to tell stories about people from different populations and we’re not writing, you know, we’re not so focused on the white male chef as the discover of all things. I think everybody is kind of gaining a new awareness about this but there’s so much work that needs to be done. And I think in the food media world in general, in the writer world, that there are only certain writers that are getting the bylines and it’s like as a gatekeeper, we need to open our doors a little wider and start to say, “Well who else can tell this story?” because everybody needs opportunity. You know, if you have the ability to point out where people can do better. I’ve recently saw a magazine article about a chef of color and it was specifically talking about soul food. And it was written by a lily white female writer and I thought to myself why couldn’t if they had an African-American writer do that piece because I felt like there could have been a lot more richness or depth to the story because that person may have had their own experiences to infuse into the narrative as well. And I just saw that it’s like an oversight and I was like well why didn’t why didn’t an African-American writer write that story you know because they would have done a better job. And in that particular case I was able to like casually bring that up in conversation with an editor because I had that relationship. I mean I think it’s just like all the other problems in the world it can seem very overwhelming when you start to look at I don’t know like systemic oppression like the wealth gap. I mean if you want to really get into stuff like a little intense. But you know I think the work starts by us looking around the spaces that we live in and say what is my space look like? Is it homogenous? Is it not homogenous? Have I like, you know, am I going to the same people to give them work or am I going to somebody different?

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:28:34] Do you think food has the power to bring people together?

Keia Mastrianni: [00:28:38] No. No. I’m just kidding.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:28:41] That was such a leading question. Will you follow me there?

Keia Mastrianni: [00:28:46] Of course it does. I mean, it’s like the great connector right. I love that you said food and music. I think food and music do that. Mm hmm. I just was thinking about this opportunity. My partner and I went down to South America and we worked on a farm down there and the farmer, we were on this rural island working with this farmer and his wife. And every morning we would have like the simplest breakfast at their tiny little table and you know I’m not fluent in Spanish but somehow through those few days that we were there we communicated fully with one another at that breakfast table and I don’t know how but we understood each other through our our broken exchanges and even then too I remember it was right when David Bowie passed and he was playing all this Bowie and he was singing the words in English and I’m like, you know, that’s the power of music. I mean he’s in the middle of of Chile and he knows David Bowie and he can sing the words to his songs. So I was just brought back to that memory. I just want to say thank you so much for for having me on the show. I didn’t think I had a lot of things to say about food and memory but literally you brought out memories that I had not even thought about in such a long time so thank you for your talents because it’s the work that you’ve done too that made it so special so thanks.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:30:14] Thank you for your time and your storytelling and just all your thoughtfulness today I really appreciate it. Thanks.

Cass Herrington: [00:30:26] Jen, that was so sweet. Sweet like blueberry hand pies. Happy Galentine’s Day sister.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:30:40] You too, babe. We have some folks to thank for making this episode possible. First off, thanks to today’s storyteller Keia Mastrianni.

Cass Herrington: [00:30:40] You can keep up with Milk Glass Pie and all of Keia’s baking and writing adventures on Instagram. Check out our show notes for links. I can’t wait to see where she goes next.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:30:53] Right on. This woman is poised for greatness. And those hand pies are so good.

Cass Herrington: [00:30:53] Come on, stop reminding me about these tasty hand pies. I wish I could have been there.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:31:05] Me too. This was the very first recording I did for Skillet, and like they say in baking, it was a “test batch.”.

Cass Herrington: [00:31:06] Like the first pancake?

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:31:10] Yeah, you never know how the first one will turn out.

Cass Herrington: [00:31:10] Pour some maple syrup on it. I’d say it came together pretty well.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:31:19] Why thanks, Cass. And while we’re saying thank you, a shout out to our digital producer Rich Orris.

Cass Herrington: [00:31:19] He captured some gorgeous photos of Keia and her hand pies so check them out on our social media.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:31:37] We’re @skilletpodcast on Facebook and Instagram.

Cass Herrington: [00:31:38] There are even more photos on our website: www.skilletpodcast.com.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:31:38] While you’re there, consider making a donation. Even 10 dollars helps us gear up for the next season.

Cass Herrington: [00:31:38] Leave a review or rate us and your podcast app.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:31:40] And share Skillet on your social media feed. It makes us so happy.

Cass Herrington: [00:31:48] And gives us the push we need to make the next episode.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:31:49] Oh, speaking of, let’s tell you about who’s coming up next time.

Cass Herrington: [00:31:51] Yes, let’s. Farmer and chef Sunil Patel makes a kichadi symphony.

Sunil Patel: [00:31:59] [sizzling spices].

Sunil Patel: [00:31:59] Okay lettting that toast a little bit.

[00:32:02] [sizzle of water and potatoes hitting pan].

Sunil Patel: [00:32:03] Potatoes are going in.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:32:03] As he makes this traditional Indian comfort food, we capture the sounds of spices toasting and potatoes sizzling.

Cass Herrington: [00:32:14] Calling all our ASMR fans.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:32:17] But even if your scalp doesn’t tingle when you hear something soothing, there’s plenty to tickle your ears.

Cass Herrington: [00:32:23] Sunil talks about growing up with immigrant parents and how he infuses their recipes with food he farms himself.

Jen Nathan Orris: [00:32:29] The results are pretty delicious.

Cass Herrington: [00:32:31] Don’t miss it. We’ll be back in two weeks with the next episode of