I like grocery shopping. A lot.
I’m not quite sure why, but I suspect there’s something oddly biological about it. Using completely unfounded methodology, and my own made up science I’ve decided that the act of placing a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese or Toaster Strudels into my cart actually stimulates a residual part of my brain, reserved for hunter and gatherers, who would otherwise be tossing acorns into a buffalo skull. Though I have no proof of this. I’m 94.2% sure it is true.
My personal favorite place to fulfill my need to amass berries, nuts, and pizza flavored Pringles is Publix, our local grocery store.
For all you northerners, Publix is a grocery store chain, pronounced PUB-Lix, rather than pube-licks, (which is how my husband and I pronounced it upon our arrival to the Sunshine State).
I spend a lot of time at Publix and the staff knows me well. We’ve built a bond over discussions over weather, our kids sleep habits, and the state of the last avocado shipment.
But of all my Publix friends I’ve made, one stands out the most: The Pie Lady. That’s her beautiful picture at the top of the page.
My first week here in Florida, three years ago I entered the grocery store and was greeted by a kind woman in her sixties holding out a small piece of pie in a tiny plastic cup.
“Would you like to try a sample of our pah?” she said in her lovely southern accent.
How could I turn down pah from a woman who could very well be Paula Dean’s long lost sister?
It was delicious. I bought two.
Every week that I’d return she’d be there with other pastries—danish, German chocolate cake, M&M cookies! I am vulnerable to her sale pitches, weak to her great deals.
For a long time my love for The Pie Lady went unrequited. I don’t think she even knew I existed. She’d hand me a little cup of red velvet cake, tell me it was only $4.49 then move on to the next drooling customer as if I meant nothing more to her then the mammoth cake I just put in my shopping cart.
Did she not know how happy her little samples of chocolate chip muffins made me feel? Could she not sense the glow of my heart when I approached her little stand?
But that all changed last week.
She handed me a tidbit of key lime pie and looked right at me and said “You’re the author? Right?”
As I shoveled the lovely tart morsel into my mouth, I nodded and smiled. Though my fame only reaches to the city limits of my little beach town, I still love when I get recognized.
“I’m so excited to meet a real author!” she said handing me a second sample. I nodded again and inserted the pie.
She turned to one of the deli workers—the one that often gives me thick samples of ham—and said, “Did you know she’s an author?”
The woman looked at me and smiled–only slightly. Apparently she wasn’t as impressed
I told them about my books, where they can get them (www.beckypourchot.com!!) and gave them bookmarks. I continued my shopping and headed home.
The next time I was at the store the Pie Lady, who I later learned is named Cindy, was handing out samples of deli meat and although I was disappointed that it wasn’t pie, I was still happy to see her.
“I wasn’t able to pick up your book yet,” she said. As I eagerly reached out and took the slice of mesquite flavored turkey coupled with a bit of harvati, I said, “You know what? I’ve got books in the car. Let me give you one!”
Now, here’s the thing about being a self-published author. I don’t usually hand out free books. Every dollar counts. Books cost money and when you’re making little to nothing, you need to think twice before giving freebies.
BUT I create books to, yes, make money, and, yes, because it’s really cool when people in the grocery store treat me like Julia Roberts perusing the frozen food isle, but I mostly do it to share my stories. I write, because when I’m at my computer plugging out poems, books, blogs I am in my sacred space, a place of joy. I am me. And if I can share even a little pie sample’s amount of joy with others then I’ve done something huge.
That afternoon, in the Publix bakery I signed Cindy’s book, “I hope you like it. Thanks for all the pie!”
Cindy, The Pie Lady has brought a smile to my face for three years now. All I can hope is that I can return the favor.
In honor of Cindy and pie ladies across the nation I’m offering my own free samples of sorts. My book Food for a Hungry Ghost is available at no cost at Smashwords Though maybe not as sumptuous as a sliver of Publix’s key lime pie, I think you’ll like it.