Penn Government Protects Us from “Little Old Ladies Baking Pies”

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“After a state crackdown forbidding the sale of homemade pies, members of St. Cecilia Catholic Church in Rochester, Pa., proceeded with their annual Lenten fish fries anyway. The pie flap helped draw healthy crowds.” Source of photos and caption: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

(p. A1) ROCHESTER, Pa. — On the first Friday of Lent, an elderly female parishioner of St. Cecilia Catholic Church began unwrapping pies at the church. That’s when the trouble started.

A state inspector, there for an annual checkup on the church’s kitchen, spied the desserts. After it was determined that the pies were home-baked, the inspector decreed they couldn’t be sold.
“Everyone was devastated,” says Josie Reed, a 69-year-old former teacher known for her pumpkin and berry pies.
. . .

The disappearance of Mary Pratte’s coconut-cream pie, Louise Humbert’s raisin pie and (p. A10) Marge Murtha’s “farm apple” pie from the fish-fry fund-raisers sparked an uproar that spread far beyond the small parish.
. . .

(p. A10) The ruckus at St. Cecilia’s could lead to changes in Pennsylvania state law. State Sen. Elder Vogel Jr. has drafted legislation aimed at allowing nonprofits, including churches, to serve food prepared at home. That would cover fish fries held during Lent. “Once again, you’ve got the heavy hand of government coming in,” he says. “These ladies bake pies, out of the goodness of their hearts.”
Sen. Vogel, who sits on the state legislature’s agriculture committee, says state officials seem willing to change the law. “They have more work on their hands than going after little old ladies baking pies.”
The inspector’s warning to St. Cecilia’s carried no fine. But the inspector has raised some hackles by telling the women that the state would allow them to bake pies for sale in their own kitchens, if they paid $35 to have them inspected as well.
“Well, that’s just ridiculous,” says Ms. Humbert, 73, one of the parish bakers. She has been bringing raisin pies to the church for more than a decade and says she thought the women’s kitchens “are probably a lot cleaner than some restaurants,” but might not meet “nitpicky” requirements.
Ms. Pratte, 88, has been attending St. Cecilia’s since she was a girl. She missed a step and spent two and a half weeks in the hospital earlier this year. She said it would be “kind of hard” to get to the church to do any baking. “I’d rather just make them at home,” she says of her coconut-cream pies. Others say it’s difficult to bake good pies in a strange oven.
Thanks to the publicity caused by the crackdown, the St. Cecilia’s fish fries attracted more visitors than ever before.

For the full story, see:
KRIS MAHER. “Pennsylvania Pie Fight: State Cracks Down on Baked Goods; Inspector Nabs Homemade Desserts At St. Cecilia Church’s Lenten Fish Fry.” The Wall Street Journal (Fri., APRIL 10, 2009): A1 & A10.
(Note: ellipses added.)

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