Working on a magazine sometimes feels like writing a
note and putting it in a bottle thrown out to sea. Did anyone receive your
missive? Did they like it? Did it move them, help them, offend them (say it
ain’t so!), or (worst of all) bore them into a catatonic state?
A lot of jobs get instant feedback, like stage actors
or retail salespeople. Others get at least some type of regular feedback,
like teachers who see progress through their students’ grades, or fire,
police or rescue workers who are in direct daily contact with members of the
Sure, we receive hundreds of pieces of mail a month,
but most of it is in response to our Crossroads or Whatzit? or History
Mystery features and prompted by the prospect of winning the small prize
attached to a correct answer. Our Mailbag receives a couple of dozen letters
a month, but with a circulation of 350,000 that’s to be expected. And
every two or three years, we have an outside survey firm conduct a
readership survey, and for years those have consistently shown that about 80
percent of electric cooperative members who receive the magazine read it
regularly. It’s a very high number for a non-newsstand, non-subscription
And yet … when you invest as much time, energy,
effort and flat-out caring as our staff does on this publication, you wonder
sometimes: Are we on target, and are people really reading at the level
that the survey numbers show, or were people just being nice to the
Then, something comes along and shows that, yes, the
surveyors were right, readers really are doing what we love for them to do;
that is, they’re reading the magazine. And even more importantly, they’re
responding to it. Witness the huge response we received to the most
seemingly mundane of requests.
In the last issue, our March/April gardening issue, we
published a letter from Freda Bailey of Manassas, who pled with other
readers, saying, “I would love to know how to make an old-fashioned raisin
pie. I cannot find them in the stores, and I can’t find a recipe for
one.” And little did we know that in publishing her request, we were
unleashing a torrent of response from eager cooks wielding recipes for a
dizzying array of pies centered around a dried fruit — raisins.
Well, it’s April 7 as I write this, and the recipes
that poured in last month are now trickling in, and the count exceeds 150.
After serving in this job for 20 years, I can tell you that this is
absolutely the largest response we’ve ever gotten to any single request
for help or information or reaction.
Now, that’s not to say that we received over 150
totally unique raisin pie recipes, since there appear to be some recipes
sharing all or virtually all the same ingredients. But there seem to be
at least 40 or 50 different recipes for raisin pies out there.
We’re running some of the most interesting and tasty
of the recipes in this issue’s Reader Recipes (pg. 48). Many of the other
recipes can be found on our Web site, www.co-opliving.com.
Despite the seeming limitations (at least to me, though
admittedly I’m more of an eater than a baker) in potential variations on a
raisin theme, these 150-plus recipes feature names that would appear to meet
a wide array of taste preferences, make political statements, or meet
specific needs, even emergency ones. For instance, for the true lover of
sweets, there are Raisin Molasses Pie, Raisin Cream Pie, Raisin Custard Pie,
Raisin Meringue Pie, and Honey Raisin Pie. For the patriot or
traditionalist, there are Victory Raisin Pie, Old-Fashioned Raisin Pie, and
Raisin Pie — Southern Style.
For something a bit out of the ordinary, there
are Raisin Walnut Deluxe Pie, Sour Cream Raisin Pie, Buttermilk Raisin Pie,
and Spicy Walnut Raisin Pie. For festive affairs and holidays, how about
Raisin Crumb Pie, Japanese Raisin Fruit Pie, Exquisite Raisin Pie, Raisin
Crisscross Pie, and Holiday Raisin Pie. There are also many recipes bearing
the name of the culinary artist, such as Raisin Pie (Velma’s), Mattie
Neeley’s Raisin Pie, Grandma Flora’s Raisin Custard Pie, and Almeda’s
Then, there was my favorite title, to meet that special
need that many of us have encountered when important guests are on their way
over: Preacher’s Comin’ Raisin Pie.
The more than 150 folks who took the time to send in
their recipes, simply to help a fellow reader, offer a refreshing display of
the basic goodness and generosity that most people possess. And, we’d like
to think, it’s an example of how electric cooperatives are more than
just electric utilities; we’re integral parts of the communities in which
Sure, our core mission is to provide reliable,
affordable electricity, but we also try to provide through this magazine a
regular forum for news and information on your cooperative, humor, travel
ideas, profiles of uplifting people and places, ideas for saving energy,
and, yes, the sharing of recipes, all of which is done to add value to
the lives of cooperative members.
The tremendous response of our readers touched Freda
Bailey of Manassas, who wrote you and us the following note in late March:
“Raisin Pie Fans,
I would like to thank Cooperative Living for the
wonderful work they do, and for sending me all the Raisin Pie recipes. I
received over 140 recipes. Thanks to all you wonderful people out there for
your time. Now I can make my raisin pie. It’s going to take a long time to
try all of them, but I promise I will. Thank you all!”
And, from those of us who work daily on this magazine
that you receive 10 times a year, we also offer a heartfelt thank you for
affirming that the magazine is read, and responded to, in a special way.
However, I still think that someone’s missing the
boat in not developing or sharing a recipe with a title both humorous in
nature and Biblical in proportions: The Raisin (Sugar) Cane Pie. Readers?