By Elicia Brown
The bake sale didn’t start with pie-in-the-sky ambitions. It began in a modest kitchen in Teaneck, N.J., with two sisters who possessed a flair for cooking and a desire to honor their deceased mother and grandmother.
But in 2009, the first year of their charitable fundraiser, their sale of home-baked Thanksgiving pies and pumpkin-cranberry bread raked in $16,000; all of it was donated to help launch programming for ovarian cancer patients at the Jewish organization Sharsheret.
The second year, the sisters, Adeena Sussman and Sharon Wieder, raised $25,000 for Sharsheret. This Thanksgiving, the event’s third year, the sisters hope to top their record.
“Everybody likes pie, but not everyone likes to make it,” says Sussman, who is a professional chef, food writer and recipe developer in New York City. Also, “we wanted to do something in mom’s memory.”
The sisters’ mother and grandmother both died of ovarian cancer in the past decade. Both matriarchs seem to hover in the background during the baking days for the Thanksgiving sale, while the sisters mix and measure, and the Billy Joel tunes of their childhood play from the breakfast nook.
“We think. We laugh. We do dishes,” says Wieder of the three 12-hour days of baking they’ve braved in each of the last two years. At times, they think of their grandmother, Ann Nadrich, whom the sisters adored for her “punny” wit. At times, the sisters speak of “mommyisms,” the sort of behavior that typified Stephanie Sussman, their mother.
A warm hostess who could whip up amazing meals even if the refrigerator only seemed to contain a head of lettuce and a quart of milk, Stephanie Sussman died a few days shy of her 62nd birthday.
Not long before her death, she flew to the East Coast from her California home to spend Thanksgiving with her daughters; it was a difficult holiday as Wieder dealt with her own diagnosis of breast cancer, but Sussman can still hear the sound of her mother’s laughter that day.
This year, for the first time, the event is going national, with the holiday desserts baked in friends’ and relatives’ kosher kitchens around the country, as well as in Wieder’s Teaneck, N.J. home. Home bakers will be at work in Manhattan; West Orange, N.J.; Five Towns, N.Y.; Atlanta, Ga.; Sharon, Mass. and Palo Alto, Calif. At $20 each, the pies come in four flavors: pumpkin, pecan, chocolate pecan and chocolate chip cookie dough. Loaves of pumpkin cranberry breads can also be purchased for $20 through Nov 14.
The project “is in keeping with mom’s personality,” says Wieder, a stay-at-home mother of three, who is also an active volunteer. “There’s a little bit of her spirit in every pie.”
To order pastries or make a donation to the Pies For Prevention Thanksgiving Sale: http://www.sharsheret.org/blog/768/third-annual-pies-prevention-thanksgiving-bake-sale.
Elicia Brown is a freelance writer who lives in Manhattan.