Today is Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Pie Lady

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She'll probably cook up about 50 pies for this weekend.

"I do it Granny-style," said Willette Piercey.

A native of Lebanon, this "Pie Lady" is known around these parts, mostly for her delicious, delectable pies. She manages to live up to her moniker in between safely delivering Lebanon students on her long-time morning and afternoon school bus route. Sometimes she whips up a savory pie, as in Shepherd's Pie, but mostly it's gooey pecan or apple or chess.

"I just love to cook pies," she said. "I use the money I make to visit my children."

It's a steady stream of funds these days and, on Saturday, she'll be at the new Wilson County Expo Center event with those 50 pies that will surely go quickly.

She said she's a grown-up girl still trying to figure out what to do with her life. She's finally found her niche. It started out a long time ago when, after being a stay-at-home mom, she went to apply for a random job at the Lebanon Auto Auction.

"I could smell great aromas from the kitchen there," she recalled.

Seems she followed her nose and landed a job cooking instead of the other gig. Her "granny-in-law" taught her how to cook both desserts and regular meals.

Granny told her, "Honey, 'round here we don't eat to sustain, we eat to enjoy."

Granny happened to be Louise Hankins, who was well-known on the Lebanon Square for years.

Piercey said she's sort of cheap, so when she dined out and fell in love with a dish, she'd go home and recreate it. That's how her famous bread pudding came to be.

"Yes, I went to the market and got eggs, vanilla and sugar, and I made it with leftover rolls," she said.

The magic was the praline sauce. She put the bread pudding on her boss' desk and within days five bucks of ingredients were going for $75 a pan of pudding. She started catering and would dish up meat-and-threes, pizzas, calzones - all the way to steamed lobster and seared filet mignon.

It was 1998 when Piercey won the first of many first-place awards for her cooking at the Wilson County Fair. She's snagged seven grand championships in the culinary contests.

"My goal in life as a young one was to get one of those rosette trophies," she said. "My dad gave me a charm bracelet with a rosette, and I fell in love with it."

The first time she entered a dessert it was by mistake because she was too late for another entry. She was told it was dessert entry day only and quickly ran home and whipped up five desserts.

"I won four blue ribbons!" she said.

Prominent Lebanon citizens found out about her and begged her to cook for them. Thus, she became a private chef and at one point delivered 14 plates a night. Her husband was a diabetic, and because she loved to cook desserts so much she just cooked and gave the deliciousness away. The youngest of her children, Zeke, will soon be deployed overseas.

"I can't watch the news, so I cook for an escape, to keep my sanity and not worry and make people smile when they take a bite," she said.

These days she loves to do "pop-up sales," and she keeps the count low and doesn't want to grow into a big franchise. At 55, she said she's still evolving, but that radius will be around pies. Buttermilk, pecan, chocolate chip and cookie dough pies will be waiting at the expo center Saturday from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. during the Lebanon Antiques & Uniques Expo.

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expo center, Mt. Juliet, pies
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