50 Pies/50 States: 1 Baker's Sweet (Sometimes Savory) Road Trip Across The U.S. Originally from Singapore, Stacey Mei Yan Fong loves baking and America. For a project she calls 50 Pies/50 States, she's made an elaborative representative pie for each state.

An Ode, À La Mode: 1 Baker Savors America, Creating 50 Pies For 50 States

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/937270631/939532391" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


A baker trapped in her Brooklyn kitchen has been on a virtual road trip. She is reaching every part of the country by baking elaborate pies that celebrate unique offerings from each of the 50 states. So no ordinary peach pie for Georgia - instead, imagine a stewed sweet tea peach pie with brown sugar pecan crumble. NPR's Neda Ulaby has more.

NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: Meet our baker, Stacey Mei Yan Fong. Originally from Singapore, Fong lived in Indonesia and Hong Kong before moving to the U.S. for college 14 years ago. Fong remains dazzled by America and the generosity of her friends, who would invite a lonely, pie-loving foreigner to share holidays when she had nowhere else to go.


STACEY MEI YAN FONG: So, like, how can I repay them in some sweet or savory way in flaky crust, you know? (Laughter).

ULABY: Fong answers that question on her website and Instagram - 50 Pies 50 States. Here she is bouncing around in a cheerful red, white and blue T-shirt preparing a blueberry pie.


FONG: If your dough gets a little sticky, you can put more flour on it.

ULABY: With 50 Pies 50 States, Fong tells stories about her own connection to each place, dedicates the pie to a friend from there and disdains obvious choices. While Texas is known for pecans and barbecue, Fong went with its ruby red grapefruit.


FONG: So I ended up making a grapefruit custard pie with candied jalapenos on top - because, you know, you need a little spice when you're in Texas.

ULABY: And avocado would have been far too easy for California, where it's the official state fruit. Instead, Fong focused on the savory delights of Napa Valley.


FONG: So it ended up being an artichoke pie with an herbed crust with a red wine reduction on the top, which was very, very lovely.

ULABY: For every pie, Fong dives into research. She became fascinated with Native American cuisines, and so for South Dakota, she baked...


FONG: A blue corn crust with wild rice and sunflower milk rice pudding in the center with, like, this bergamot, like, berry compote and then pumpkin seed crunch on top.

ULABY: Yeah, this is someone incapable of keeping things simple.


FONG: This seems really hard. Let me make it a little bit harder.

ULABY: Even for something as straightforward as Florida key lime pie, Fong insisted on baking homemade graham crackers just for the crust.


FONG: Which, let me just tell you - just buy graham crackers. Just buy them. Don't make them at home.

ULABY: All this labor and passion may speak, she thinks, to a uniquely unjaded immigrant's take on America.


FONG: The payoff and the journey to the end is always so, so worth it.


SIMON AND GARFUNKEL: (Singing) Let us be lovers. We'll marry our fortunes together.

ULABY: Stacey Mei Yan Fong's journey started by listening to Simon and Garfunkel with her dad as a child, enchanted by the idea of traveling across America.


FONG: The whole dream of going on a road trip - like, I feel like that meant a lot to me.

ULABY: But Fong's temporarily put her project on hiatus with only six more pies to go. She wants to travel to those remaining states to enjoy the experience of eating pie there in person safely. That's an American experience, she says, well worth waiting for.

Neda Ulaby, NPR News.


SIMON AND GARFUNKEL: (Singing) Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike - they've all come to look for America, all come to look for America, all come to look for...

Copyright © 2020 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.