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.
Sold for $1 a slice, homemade pies have always been part of the Lenten fish-fry dinners at St. Cecilia's, located in this tiny city near Pittsburgh. Similar dinners are held in church basements and other venues across the country this time of year.
The problem is the pies are illegal in Pennsylvania. Under the state's food-safety code, facilities that provide food at four or more events in a year require at least a temporary eating and drinking license, and food has to be prepared in a state-inspected kitchen. Many churches have six fish fries a year, on Fridays during Lent. St. Cecilia's has always complied with having its kitchen licensed, so food made there is fine to serve. But homemade goods don't make the cut.
The disappearance of Mary Pratte's coconut-cream pie, Louise Humbert's raisin pie and Marge Murtha's "farm apple" pie from the fish-fry fund-raisers sparked an uproar that spread far beyond the small parish. The local paper dubbed it "piegate," and a nearby bakery donated pies to the church to help fill the gap at the dessert table. There are reports of other churches continuing to sell contraband pastries. Legislation to overturn the baked-goods ban is being discussed.
That's pretty ridiculous. The food and safety director of that states deserves a pie in the face, followed by an "INSPECTED" stamp in the forehead.