< Back to Oral History project: Pie in Arkansas
From her tiny pink trailer in the Ozark Mountains, Aileen Forman turns out made-to-order fried pies she assembles with local ingredients. After living around the country, the former reporter and blackjack dealer returned to the Ozarks, where she has extended family, and founded Babycakes Bakery in 1997.
As she makes the fried pies, the five minutes it takes to roll out, fill, and fry each seven-inch bundle becomes time for storytelling, conversation, and human connections. Under the shade of the oak trees looming above the trailer, customers find an empathetic ear as they watch their pies cook.
For Aileen, making fried pies has become something of a quest for both taste and memory. She experimented with her dough to get the perfect light crust—a recipe that she shares in the interview—and buys her fruit from local orchards. For her customers, eating a fried pie stirs up memories of their mothers or grandmothers making pies, much as it does for Aileen, whose Ozarkan grandmother made fried pies for her. Though she began the bakery with no previous experience in food service, her “whim” has become a rich emotional experience. “I have touched more memories in people than I could have ever imagined,” says Aileen.