On this last episode, we look back on 23 years of joyous, difficult and always informative conversation.
The air is (finally) crisp in the Washington region — and something primal is happening. As we break out our sweaters and revel in the cooler temperatures, many crave the comforts of home.
Enter pumpkin spice. Apple pie. Butternut squash. Sweet potatoes.
We’re talking about the best ingredients of autumn — and how local businesses survive and thrive on seasonality and getting back to basics.
Produced by Julie Depenbrock
KOJO NNAMDIWelcome back. The air is finally crisp in the Washington region and something primal is happening as we break out our sweaters and revel in the cooler temperatures. Many crave the food and flavors that offer comfort in the colder months. Enter apple pie, sweet potatoes, pumpkin spice and everything else. We're talking the best ingredients of autumn and how local businesses survive and thrive on seasonality and getting back to basics.
KOJO NNAMDIAnd joining me in studio is Maura Judkis. She's a reporter with the Washington Post. She conducted the infamous week-long pumpkin spice experiment in 2017 for which she ultimately won a James Beard Award. Maura, thank you so much for joining us.
MAURA JUDKISThanks for having me.
NNAMDIAlso joining us in studio are Ruth Tam and Patrick Fort. They are the co-hosts of Dish City, a podcast from WAMU. Hi, Ruth.
RUTH TAMHey, Kojo. Thanks for having us.
NNAMDIHey Patrick, how's it going?
PATRICK FORTGood, thanks. It's great to be here.
NNAMDIRuth, Patrick, in whatever order you choose to, what food and drink trends have a tendency to pop up during the fall and why?
FORTWell, I think it should come as no surprise that the things that become trendy in the fall kind of line up with what is growing and what is being harvested in the fall. So thinking things like kale and Brussel sprouts and squashes and obviously apples. Virginia actually is a top ten apple-producing state in the United States.
TAMI just learned that this morning (laugh) and I think it makes sense then that there's so many cideries that have opened up in the region. And, you know, apple cider is a big thing either at farms or even just at bars out here in D.C. Patrick told me this morning we're now transitioning from spiked seltzer season to spike cider season. Obviously the pumpkin spice latte is a huge seasonal trend, but in general I think we're seeing, like you know, the shift towards more of the warm spice beverages.
TAMYeah, pumpkin beer.
NNAMDIApple picking has become an especially popular activity for autumn weekends, to the point where even NBC's Saturday Night Live poked fun.
NNAMDIThat clip from Saturday Night Live. What kinds of fall activities are you indulging in this time of year? Are you going out apple picking? Give us a call, tell us how you enjoyed it or not, 800-433-8850. So what's the deal with apple picking, Ruth? Why has it become such a trend?
TAMWell, I have my own thoughts about this. Patrick can fill you in on the actual history, but I have this theory that it's kind of for city and suburban folks to kind of perform the fantasy of living a rural lifestyle in some sort of pastoral paradise. And I think it's just a way for people to get out and, you know, remind ourselves that this is actually what it takes to get the food that we like to eat on our plates. And people want to do that one time a year.
TAMBut, you know, it's actually nice to be outside now and so it's good to go outside. And I think for a lot of new parents especially, it's a nice opportunity to put your baby in front of a pumpkin and be like, look, cute.
NNAMDIShe just went from cynic to enthusiasm in ten seconds. Go ahead, Patrick.
FORTWell, it turns out that the business of kind of big apple picking, as I would say, is kind of coming from a place of agro tourism and the big push that happened in the middle of the 20th century. Again, to kind of get at what Ruth was talking about, the getting people who lived in cities an experience of taste of rural and Americana life so to speak. And now it's kind of become -- it's continued to do that, but also it's been a way to kind of have people do some of the work for you in a way. Yeah, and now it's big business.
NNAMDIDo you see the appeal of it?
FORTYeah, I think it's kind of fun. I like putting on a sweater. I like going out and drinking cider and having cider donuts and taking home lots of apples that I don't know what to do with.
NNAMDIMaura, are these fall trends always recycled from previous years or is there something new happening here in Washington?
JUDKIS(laugh) You know, I think that people tend to gravitate towards some of the same things, because there's a comfort in that really. I went apple picking this past weekend too. (laugh) It was great. It was fun. I picked like $50 worth of apples, exactly as that clip said. (laugh)
NNAMDIDid you participate in any other recreational or entertainment activities during your apple-picking sojourn?
JUDKISWe went to a winery that was next to the apple farm too. It was lovely. And we sat outside and there was music. And, I mean...
NNAMDIAnd imbibed wine of course.
JUDKISYes, yes. (laugh)
NNAMDIIt was fun?
JUDKISYeah, some of it is kind of, I think, performative for Instagram too. There's lots of people who are setting up these elaborate photo shoots. They take pictures of themselves, their babies. There's lots of engagement photos that happen in apple orchards. So I think that's a big aspect of it too.
NNAMDI800-433-8850. Do you have a hot take on pumpkin spice, which we're about to discuss? Give us a call, 800-433-8850. Maura, can you please explain the cultural phenomenon of pumpkin spice? How did it come about in the first place?
JUDKIS(laugh) So when I wrote the story two years ago I wanted to know where, did pumpkin spice come from. What is the origin of it? And I did this historical newspaper search. And I learned that actually the first time that pumpkin spice appeared in print was in the Washington Post in 1936. So it's kind of our fault, I guess, (laugh) that this is a thing. It was in reference to a pumpkin spice cake. And we actually made the cake and the recipe was kind of terrible and we had to update it. It wasn't very sweet. It was really dense. The instructions weren't so great...
NNAMDISeventy-three years ago, now it's popular?
JUDKIS(laugh) Well, so really who we have to thank for the pumpkin spice phenomenon is Starbucks. And so they introduced the pumpkin spice latte, which also was tested in Washington. We were one of the test markets for it. So, I mean, the Washington ties to pumpkin spice are kind of deep and embarrassing, I would say (laugh), but...
FORTYou're welcome, America.
TAMWe did this to you.
NNAMDIWell, now is the time for a moment of truth. For each one of you, starting with you Patrick, pumpkin spice, love it or hate it?
NNAMDINo, we don't do neutrality on this broadcast. (laugh)
NNAMDIOkay, there you go. Ruth?
TAMIf I can only choose between love it or hate it, I'm going to go on the hating side of it because I'm more of a savory person. And so I just -- yeah, I don't need all that.
NNAMDIHow about you, Maura?
JUDKISWell, when I did the story, I tried basically enough pumpkin spice for a lifetime (laugh) and I don't think I can eat it again ever. Although I say that every year and then, of course, like three weeks ago for the Washington Post Tick Tock, they made me try some pumpkin spice spam, which is a thing, and it was disgusting. So hate it, yeah.
NNAMDIWhat possessed you in the first place to embark on the experiment of all pumpkin spice everything for a week? And tell us what the experiment entailed.
JUDKISSo it kind of just came out of seeing pumpkin spice season, because that's what people call it now, pumpkin spice season. It was coming earlier and earlier every year, like Christmas. It was really infringing on summer, to be honest. You were getting these pumpkin spice products in stores when the temperatures were still at 100 degrees. And it had just become so over the top. I've seen ridiculous pumpkin spice products.
JUDKISYou know, there's pumpkin spice cheese and pumpkin spice soup and pumpkin spice paper towels and even pumpkin spice deodorant. That's a real thing that exists. And so I kind of wondered, like, could I survive on pretty much just pumpkin spice for a week? (laugh) And I almost did because you can have pumpkin spice for breakfast, lunch and dinner, because there's savory pumpkin spice things now.
NNAMDIAnd there were people looking at you like you were crazy?
JUDKISOh, yes. I looked completely deranged. I would go through the grocery store and I had this real...
NNAMDIOnly because you were, but go ahead. (laugh)
JUDKISThat's true. Anytime I went to a store or saw something online, if any pumpkin spice thing crossed my path, my rule is that I had to buy it. And so I would go through the grocery store, I'd walk through Giant, and I'd have this cart full of just orange packaging. And I'd go through the line and everyone would give me this look like I was a really crazy person. (laugh)
JUDKISI mean, it was a fun story to write. It was kind of about the pumpkin spice industrial complex, because people just kind of jumped on this bandwagon and pumpkin spice has become a thing of its own. And it's kind of a personality type even. Like people get so obsessed with it that there are pumpkin spice shirts. And, like, there's a whole fandom online.
NNAMDIWell, it turns out however that despite the fact that you did not like the pumpkin spice spam, that was not the worst thing you ever tried. What was the worst pumpkin-flavored thing you ever tried?
JUDKISWell, so the worst thing, it doesn't sound super bad when you describe it, but there's this spray-on can of pumpkin spice. And it came in this can sort of like a hairspray actually. And it was so you could carry it around and if you wanted something to be pumpkin spice, you just spray the spice on. And so, I mean, the possibilities of it were sort of disgusting, the idea that you could spray it into anything. Like, could you have pumpkin spice wine or, like, pumpkin spice fish? It sounds horrible.
JUDKISBut then when you actually do spray it on something like a coffee or something reasonable, it tastes like air freshener, or what I imagine air freshener would taste like.
NNAMDIAre you sure that's not what it was? (laugh)
JUDKISNo, it was edible. It was for food, yeah.
NNAMDIJosh tweets to us, even better than picking apples is firing them from a cannon at a school bus, which you can do at some corn maze farms. A bus no longer in service, Josh hastens to add. (laugh)
TAMI did that last weekend. (laugh)
NNAMDIWhy am I not surprised?
TAMYeah, I went to a summer's farm up in, I think it's -- it's up in Maryland. And, yeah, I fired a bunch of apples out of a cannon.
FORTWell, and there's also the annual tradition of seeing how far you can make a machine throw a pumpkin.
NNAMDIDid you enjoy firing...
TAMIt was fun and when you hit a target and, like, the apple explodes (laugh) on impact it's really satisfying, though it feels really wasteful. I hope they, like, go and gather all the apples that don't hit targets and use them for feed or something because it's kind of ridiculous.
NNAMDIHere's Dawn in Washington, D.C. Dawn, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DAWNYes, hi. So I wanted to ask this question. I've been baking pumpkin pies with my mom since I was a little girl and I'm in my sixties, so you know how long that is. And we used to use the Libby's pie recipe and it had these amazing spices. And so when you say pumpkin spice, I'm wondering if you're referring to the pumpkin pie spices that were individual, like cinnamon and nutmeg that were in that Libby's recipe 60 years ago. And that's what I use for apple pie, everything. I get the pumpkin pie spice now (laugh) in the bottle and put it into my recipe. So is that what we're referring to or is there actually something called pumpkin spice?
JUDKISYeah, so it can be branded a couple of different ways. I think a lot of times when people buy say a pumpkin spice latte, for a while, you know, they thought that it meant that it would have pumpkin in it. And it originally didn't. It referred to the spice blend. It's typically cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, allspice and ginger. And so it makes perfect sense that you would put that in other things too, because that's just a delicious blend of spices.
JUDKISAnd then once people figured out that pumpkin spice didn't actually refer to -- it referred to the spice blend rather than the actual pumpkin, there was kind of a controversy with Starbucks. And they ended up having to put some trace amount of pumpkin in their pumpkin spice latte, because people accused them of misbranding the drink. They said like, how come there's no pumpkin in this? And I think (laugh) it was a little too (all talking at once) ...
FORTHow dare they?
JUDKIS...big pumpkin, like, who cared?
NNAMDI800-433-8850. Do you have a hot take on pumpkin spice? Give us a call. What is your favorite fall flavor, 800-433-8850. You can send us a Tweet @kojoshow or email to email@example.com. And Maura, you got Dominic's attention from D.C. Dominic says, where is this winery next to an apple-picking orchard? I want to go.
JUDKISSo the farm that I went to was Homestead. It's in Poolesville, Maryland. And the winery is Rockland's.
NNAMDIDominic, I'm hoping you also want to go to the orchard and not just going...
JUDKISNot just the wine.
NNAMDI...not just going for the wine. Richard Tweets, my grandmother was a Swedish lady from Minnesota and master baker. The aroma of her house when the pumpkin pies were in the oven is the smell of unconditional love. Maybe that's one of the things that people associate with their fall flavors, memories from the past. Care to comment on that?
FORTYeah, I think one of the things that we're thinking about too when we talk about apple picking and the appeal of it is that it's a way for people to kind of establish, like, a season by themselves. We were talking about how, like, pumpkin spice like candy and scents and stuff show up in August when it's, you know, 95 degrees here and nobody cares to think about that. But going to a farm and picking apples and picking pumpkins is kind of a way to say, yes, now I am here for fall. I am ready for this.
NNAMDIHere now is Linda in Myrtle Beach, which is in South Carolina. Linda, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
LINDAHello. Thank you for taking my call. Very enjoyable show. Two things, I think it was very cynical, but somebody had an advertisement for pumpkin spice motor oil. (laugh) So that was probably a comical thing. But I come from a little town in upstate New York called North Branch. And there was a very active wonderful cider mill that was family owned. And because of everything going on, the cider mill shut down after like 65 years of working.
LINDAYou could go and they would run the apples down the conveyor belt. They did it the old fashioned way and they would have samples of hot cider. And just a wonderful little working farm. And they closed down, because of all of the industrial things around it. You know, nobody does it like that anymore. And it's made a big effect on the price of apples where I live. And, you know, it shut down one of the county's wonderful places for people to bring their families in the fall. And I was just wondering if that has also happened in other places with these mills that worked, you know, apples straight from the trees.
JUDKISWell, you know, farming is a hard business so I imagine that it can be really difficult for a lot of these farms, especially the family-owned ones. And I think that part of what helps them keep afloat are these things like pick your own apples, coming and doing hayrides, making cider. Those things are really important for farms and they keep them very, very busy around this time of year.
NNAMDIVicky tweets, for fall I'm picking crab apples from my own tree and making and canning crabapple butter. You go, Vicky. And before we go, Ruth Tam and Patrick Fort, I'd like to talk a little bit about Dish City, because Ruth and Patrick trek around the city finding the answers to questions like, can you trademark mumbo sauce? Do immigrant communities need to change their menus to market to the masses? What's the future of the power lunch? And Dish City drops every Thursday. What dropped today?
TAMOur penultimate episode was dropped this morning. It's about D.C. soul food. So we use soul food and soul foot restaurants and southern restaurants to explore D.C.'s southern roots. I think for a lot of people D.C. is hands down a southern city, but as the town gets more diverse, the population grows, its obvious ties to the south are starting to fade. So we looked at what food has to say about that.
NNAMDIAnd, Patrick, are you enjoying this or is it really hard work? Two individuals here today, Rob and Robin Fort visiting the studio would like to know. Those would be Patrick's parents of course.
FORTThose are my parents. (laugh) The episode that we put out today about soul food was very difficult, because one of the things that we had to kind of figure out was how to define the south. Which, as it turns out, is a very complicated question, but it's very enjoyable. And we hope people like it.
NNAMDISo you are enjoying this.
NNAMDIWhich means he's not coming back to my show any time soon (laugh) . I'm afraid that's all the time we have in this segment. Ruth Tam and Patrick Fort are the hosts of Dish City, a podcast from WAMU. Maura Judkis is a reporter with the Washington Post. She conducted the infamous week-long pumpkin spice experiment in 2017. Maura, thank you so much for joining us.
NNAMDIWe're going to take a short break. When we come back, we'll be talking about the people who grow and sell the products that you enjoy during the fall. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIThat's the late Al Jarreau, talking about why he loves sweet potato pie more than pumpkin pie. (laugh) And that's one of the things we'll be discussing in this segment. Joining me in studio is Avis Renshaw, owner of Mom's Apple Pie Company in Leesburg, Virginia. Avis, thank you for joining us.
AVIS RENSHAWOh, it's exciting.
NNAMDIBettina Stern is one of the owners of Chaia Tacos, which has locations in Chinatown and in Georgetown. Bettina, thank you for joining us.
BETTINA STERNThank you.
NNAMDIAnd Tyler Butler is the owner of Butler's Orchard in Germantown, Maryland. Tyler, good to see you.
TYLER BUTLERGreat to be here.
NNAMDITyler, I'd like to begin with you and Butler's Orchard. You are a third-generation farmer. When did your grandparents first break into the orchard business?
BUTLERThat's right, 1950. They graduated college and said, I want to be a farmer. And they moved out to Germantown, Maryland, and...
NNAMDIBecause they used to go to high school right up the street in Silver Spring, right?
BUTLERYeah, they went to Blaire High School.
NNAMDIThere you go.
BUTLERAnd my father was on the show with you -- he told me to tell you to say hello -- back in the day.
NNAMDIPlease do that, yes.
BUTLERAnd, yeah, they decided to be farmers, and they had peaches, and they had a log cabin. And they bought 25 acres, and the cabin for $7,000, back then.
NNAMDIWow. Well, today, Butler's Orchard is not just an orchard. It's many things at once. I'm wondering when and why the business began to shift.
BUTLERIt did shift, and it shifted because we started with peaches. And we learned, after many failed crops, that we had to diversify. And that is farming. That continues to go with our business, all the way through until today. We are diversifying, because when you have a poor crop, there's got to be another crop right behind it. So, we got crops to pick from strawberries, all the way through until Christmas trees.
NNAMDIWould you consider Butler's Orchard a part of the what's being known as the agritainment industry, this phenomenon where orchards entice families with petting zoos, go carts, carnival rides, face painting, bounce castles, just to name a few of the attractions? (laugh)
BUTLERYeah, okay. I would say, yes, we are definitely agritainment. And, our family, we want to stick to our values. We want to stick to educating the public about where their food comes from. And what's better than coming out to the farm and learning how to pick that perfect strawberry? Or, hey, this is a pumpkin from a vine, not from a bin at the grocery store. So, yes, we have all those yummy things like donuts and kettle corn. But, also, we also have a great piece of education about where their food's grown.
NNAMDIAnd it's important to make it fun.
BUTLERIt's important to make it fun. Our target market is young families. And they're coming out, and they're spending hours. They're spending all day, all summer long into the fall. And it's great to see those faces, I'll tell you what.
NNAMDISometimes a thousand people a day?
BUTLERAbsolutely. Today, we've got over a thousand children. They're learning how a pumpkin grows and they're taking a hayride. And that memory -- we hear this all the time. I took my kids, and now I'm taking my kids here -- my grandkids. So, it's just a wild, three generation -- it's a great business to be in. Everybody's just having a great time.
NNAMDILast year, 2018, was one of the wettest years on record in the Washington region. What did that mean for business?
BUTLERFor a young farmer like me, that was a shock to my system, you know. I grew up with some success with my family, and all of a sudden, wow, rain came, and we had some trouble. And we learned how to diversify, and we had lots of extra fruit on the crops, and we couldn't get them picked. And we decided, you know, what can we do? And we found wineries and breweries, and we were just picking, and we were just finding ways to sell fruit. And so that's kind of what you do, as farmers. We roll with the punches that Mother Nature throws. And we did it last year, and we'll do it again if it comes up here in October.
NNAMDI800-433-8850. What kinds of fall activities are you indulging in this time of year? I know Bill, in Woodbridge, has one. Bill, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
BILLHi. I've been a customer of Mom's Apple Pie since 2004, my first one in their original kitchen bakery in Sterling. And I was drawn in by the smell of the chocolate chip cookies. So, hello, Avis. I'm sure you know who I am.
RENSHAW(laugh) Hi, Bill.
BILLHi, how are you?
RENSHAWI'm good. How are you?
NNAMDIBill, thank you...
BILLHe needs to let everybody know that your apple pie's fantastic, but you have such a good variety of products there. You should let them know about it.
NNAMDIOh, she's letting us know about it. She also brought some here for me to sample, which I don't plan on sharing with anyone. (laugh) But thank you very much for your call, Bill. Bettina and Avis, both of your businesses would be classified as farm-to-table. Avis, let's start with you. Can you tell us about where you get your ingredients?
RENSHAWThe majority of fruits that we can grow here in Loudoun County in Northern Virginia, we do. For instance, for our pumpkin pies, we grow different squashes. We grow raspberries, we grow blackberries, we grow strawberries. So, seasonally, we use those in different types of pies. We don't cook them. We use an uncooked type of pie. And then we also grow our own spinach and asparagus and sweet corn, sages and onions, etcetera, so that we can do quiches with the fresh eggs that we grow, as well. We source from other places for things that we can't grow well, like apples and peaches, etcetera.
NNAMDISame question to you, Bettina. Where do you get your ingredients?
STERNSo, everything about Chaia is about seasonality and locality. And we tested the idea to make certain we could do as much as reasonably feasible year-round in this growing climate that is the DMV. And, traditionally, for the last six years, we've been sourcing predominantly from an organic growers cooperative. But we also use some of the larger local food distributors who also work with local farmers. So, we make a real effort to work as close to, you know, where we're making and cooking our foods. So, the seasonality of food is always on the table for Chaia. The locality is as important, too. So...
NNAMDIAvis, you have mentioned before that people are so disconnected from their food these days. What effect does that have?
RENSHAWWell, there's certainly a lot of surprise when they taste something that's actually fresh, and like it might have been many years ago. Strawberries come to mind, in particular, because people are not accustomed to strawberries with a lot of flavor. And when they try ours, they're just kind of blown away.
NNAMDIYou, in particular, it is my understanding, are blown away when you eat a hot strawberry right off the plant.
RENSHAW(laugh) Oh, God, yeah.
NNAMDIWhat is it better than?
RENSHAW(laugh) I hope my husband's not listening. It is better...
NNAMDII hope he is. (laugh)
RENSHAW...than the best kiss I have ever had. To eat a hot, juicy strawberry was just the most sensual experience I can actually imagine.
NNAMDIWell, there you go. (laugh) I'll start with you, Bettina. How and why did you decide to focus on seasonal ingredients only?
STERNWell, for a whole lot of reasons. I mean, eating slow -- you know, I wrote this down for myself, but eating slow has to do with seasons, local, organic and whole foods. The nutritious one ingredient flavor of that yummy, hot strawberry, for me, it's actually a tomato off the vine with the summer sun kissing it. I just love it. But food that doesn't have to be stored, that's fresh, has just minimal interaction with it, is just delicious. And we knew that we could sell this to other people, if they just knew how delicious vegetables are. And, of course, grown locally, they're at the, you know, peak of their performance and flavor. So, you know, it was a matter of convincing people to eat more vegetables by making them truly delicious.
NNAMDIWe got a tweet from Anastasia, who says: we've been going to Butler's for pumpkins and apples and their amazing caramel since before our daughter was born. And we're looking forward to a return trip this week while she's on break from her freshman year of college. So, that's how long they've been going.
BUTLERWow. I'll be there.
NNAMDIYour grandmother. who founded Butler's Orchard with your grandfather. is now, it's my understanding, 90 years old. What does she think about how the business has changed over the years?
BUTLERYeah, Mrs. B is 90. and she's still there in the office. She's probably there right now listening. and she is making sure that we're still staying true to our values. And that's what's great about our family. Besides, you know, staying true to our values, she's okay to be open to change. And that's been wonderful about her. And, yes, we have -- we decided to do sunset picking and pick in the evenings. And those kind of things were different for her. She's used to people picking in huge volumes, and now I've got a local brewery selling some beer and we're picking fruit, you know. And that's a different concept. But she's absolutely very supportive, and we appreciate her being there.
NNAMDIPatty emails: as I listen to the show I'm bottling blackberry wine liqueur that I made from blackberries I picked at Butler's orchard in August. Patty, however, did fail to invite us (laugh) to taste her blackberry wine liqueur. It's not too late, Patty. What do you think about that?
BUTLERWell, I'll tell you what. I get plenty of samples from customers, so I'll take another one. (laugh) From tart cherry liqueur to blackberry, that sounds delicious. And it's always wonderful. We're seeing a resurgence in people really picking more, canning and jamming and just kind of understanding their food. And it's amazing. So, we are really excited for customers who share their story and tell others about it. Because there's nothing like picking your own fruit and really processing it and enjoying it all year long. And that's what we do with frozen fruit all winter long. It's delicious.
NNAMDI(word?) tweets: I love Mom's Apple Pie. Moved to Leesburg not long ago, and am wondering how far in advance do I need to order an apple pie for Thanksgiving.
RENSHAWShe doesn't need to order at all. She can just walk in the door. We don't do orders at the holidays, because we've been doing it for so long, we have a really good idea of how many we're going to sell. So, there you go, just come on in.
NNAMDIWell, tell us about Mom's Apple Pie Company. What makes these pies special?
RENSHAWI originally started saying that there's nothing different than what you would do at home. And then I realized, gosh, not many people cook anymore. (laugh) And so just that ends up being special on its own. In addition to the fact that we don't put any preservatives. So, it truly is a pie that you would've made if you had the time. We use very high quality butter, good flours, and as much fresh fruit -- we don't buy any fillings. We just make it from scratch. And today, that's a big deal.
NNAMDIWhat are the most popular pies this time of year?
RENSHAWPumpkin. The minute the first crisp day happens in the fall, we get two dozen people that'll walk in for a pumpkin pie. It's also the apple, the sweet potato. And it has to do with some of the flavors, you know, the warming spices that are in those particular pies that people start craving at this fall time of year.
NNAMDIHere's Michelle, in D.C. Michelle, your turn.
MICHELLEHi, Kojo. I just wanted to ask your guests: do they make pumpkin spice scented candles, and where could I buy them?
NNAMDII have no idea, and Avis and Bettina don’t seem to, either.
RENSHAWWe don't make candles.
STERNWe don't make candles, either. We actually cook vegetables so...
RENSHAWI would go on Etsy.
NNAMDII'd Google it myself, (laugh) see what you can find.
BUTLERI'd cook a pumpkin in the oven. There you go, have that smell in the oven.
NNAMDIThere you go. Avis, Bettina, to what extent is your business affected by the seasons?
STERNVery much so. I mean...
NNAMDIThis is Bettina.
STERN...yeah, I would say -- I want to piggyback on what Avis said, is that, you know, what she's doing is good, old-fashioned scratch cooking, mostly with fruit, but with vegetables, as well, and really great ingredients. You know, Chaia is doing the same thing with vegetables. And nothing we're doing is crazy ridiculous out of there. It's putting it together. You know, I'll often say that vegetables are the most luxurious item on the plate because they're so difficult to deal with. And it's learning how to work with that and then make, you know, the salsas and the tangy cheeses.
STERNBut in terms of the seasons, you know, if you're sourcing vegetables that are, you know -- whether they're root cellar vegetables or whether they're at the peak of a summer crop, we found that this area is actually a really delicious watershed for fruits and veggies. It's a basket, here. It's akin to Oregon. You know, something where you've really got a fruit basket and a veggie basket filled for much of the year.
RENSHAWYeah, because we're farm-based, we are completely dependent on the seasons for our business. And we make a variety of apple pies, or apple and other types of pies all year, but we specialize in the varieties that are actually happening right now. So, sweet potato and pumpkin are happening right now. In season, we do fresh strawberry pies. We don't get them from anywhere else. We only use ours, because we control the varieties that we plant and pick, so that we can have the super-flavor that makes the pie special.
NNAMDIBettina, I'd like to know more about Chaia Tacos. First off, what does Chaia mean, and what is the mission behind this business?
STERNSo, Chaia is a life-affirming word in multiple languages, whether it's Hebrew or Sanskrit or Hindi, meaning your shadow person, your alter ego or life. And originally it started with a different spelling, with a Y, which was based after a Mayan word for a broad tree leaf that the Mayans believed sort of cures all ailments. And it just seemed fitting to base a business whose mission was to get people to eat more vegetables, whether that's respectful to their own bodies, but also respectful to the farmers that we source from, respectful to the Earth, which we need to save. We're taking the guesswork and the hard work out of making something delicious, nutritious, making it easy for you to eat.
NNAMDIWhat's on the menu right now at Chaia Tacos?
STERNSo, right now, we've got one of my absolute favorites which is a roasted butternut squash taco with chevre that comes from Firefly Farms near Deep Creek. And it is on our hand-griddled corn tortillas along with a smoky collards taco, our braised mushroom taco, our crowd favorite of the creamy kale and potato taco and a roasted beet taco along with a whole bunch of other things that we have on the menu. And our new store in Chinatown on I Street has actually a menu that's more expansive than our Georgetown shop. So, there's really delicious things to come find there, as well.
NNAMDIHere's Shelly, in Washington, D.C. Shelly, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
SHELLYOh, hi. Just wanted to say, give a big thumbs up to Butler's Orchard and their wonderful pumpkin festival that they have. I've now played there two years in a row as a musician, and I'm going to be there this Saturday, the band called the Tumbleweeds. And, again, I never experienced any of this before, until I got this opportunity to play there. But, man, they pull out all the stops. They have so many activities, I'm just really impressed what this orchard has done to create this festival and bring the families out. So, big thumbs up.
NNAMDIWhat instrument do you play, Shelly?
SHELLYI'm a flute player and a singer. So, yeah, and we just have a lot of fun out there. And, you know, I don't have kids myself. I never have. I just play my music, that's what I do. And it's just great for me to see all the families out there having a great time. Hoping this year that we're not going to get any rain. (laugh)
NNAMDITyler, I'm assuming you know the Tumbleweeds are going to be out there this weekend.
BUTLEROh, the Tumbleweeds have been there for many years, and, Shelly, I can't wait to see you this weekend, and keep up that bluegrass music. And it's great seeing the little kids jumping up and down to bluegrass, because they don't hear that quite often. So, it's good for you, Shelly.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Shelly. We got an email from the Richardson Family, in Arlington. Our family loves Butler Orchard. Best strawberries I've ever tasted. Besides the fruit, our kids love the play areas, and presumably the music, too.
BUTLERThat's right. That's right. Like you said, strawberries, they're my favorite fruit, and it's just that first crop of the year, and it's just delicious. And so customers really resonate with that amazing strawberry flavor.
NNAMDIHere's Ed in Berlin, Maryland. Ed, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
EDHi. Thanks for having me on the air. Yeah, I love pie. I'm always pie-faced. (laugh) But they had mentioned a strawberry pie during the season, and everything they're saying makes very good sense. But do you have a strawberry rhubarb pie?
RENSHAWWe do make a strawberry rhubarb pie. And it tends to be the favorite of an older generation that came up around World War II, because rhubarb was very much promoted in victory gardens. And so when we used to sell at the military bases, the older military folks, that was the number-one selling pie there.
NNAMDIBettina, what is it about fall that makes people crave these particular flavors?
STERNWell, they're ripe and delicious right now. So, I mean, and I do love the strawberry rhubarb pie, and I'm not of that generation. (laugh) In terms of our food?
STERNI think because they're at their tastiest. So, you're seeing them show up at farmers markets and in your regular grocery store. And there's a plethora of them, and you just want to grab that deliciously beautiful squash off the shelves, or put it in your basket at DuPont, if you're there, and go home and make it taste yummy at home.
NNAMDISame question to you, Avis. What is it about fall that makes people crave these particular flavors?
RENSHAWWell, I think that as winter starts heading in, people start getting chilly. And you do need physically, biologically, to keep yourself warm so you're eating more. And you want comfort food, because you're kind of shrinking and going inside. And it's those warming spices, you know, the cinnamon, the cloves, the nutmeg.
NNAMDII'm afraid we're just about out of time, but when Avis made that comment earlier comparing the strawberry and the kiss, her son who accompanied her says, wow, mom. (laugh) I'm afraid that's all the time we have. Tyler Butler, Avis Renshaw, Bettina Stern, thank you all for joining us. Today's fall food show was produced by Julie Depenbrock.
NNAMDIComing up tomorrow on The Politics Hour, the race for Commonwealth's Attorney in Fairfax County is heating up, and the Democratic nominee will be here to talk about his plans for reform. Plus, Montgomery County Councilmember Evan Glass wants builders to pay up before they tear down old homes. That all starts tomorrow, at noon, on The Politics Hour. Until then, thank you for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
Most Recent Shows
Kojo talks with author Briana Thomas about her book “Black Broadway In Washington D.C.,” and the District’s rich Black history.
Poet, essayist and editor Kevin Young is the second director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture. He joins Kojo to talk about his vision for the museum and how it can help us make sense of this moment in history.
Ms. Woodruff joins us to talk about her successful career in broadcasting, how the field of journalism has changed over the decades and why she chose to make D.C. home.