Baking up long-forgotten memories

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Wednesday February 12th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: And I’m Megan Basham. Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: how a yellowed and worn family recipe card became a ministry to patients with dementia. 

Here’s WORLD Radio’s Myrna Brown.

ROBIN: Come on in my kitchen. I’ve got my recipes out…

MYRNA BROWN, REPORTER: Wearing her mom’s purple lace apron…

ROBIN: I’ve got some gloves because I’m going to be getting my hands dirty.

…and her daddy-inspired, royal blue gloves, Robin Dill is dressed for baking success. On the kitchen counter, two 3×5 index cards—her heritage measured in cups and pounds.

ROBIN DILL: On the recipe cards, mom’s handwriting and my dad’s handwriting.  And he wrote on there, use green bowl. So that was the bowl he’d mix up the pie dough in. They had it down to a science.

And so does she!

ROBIN DILL: One thing I need to do is I need to get some ice-cubes…we’re going to chill our water. 


ROBIN DILL: I’m going to add to five pound of flour, three tablespoons of salt. So I’m going to dump blobs of this Crisco into this flour. I want every last bit of this Crisco to go in. No wastage. I’m trying to get that Crisco broken down into pea size, so that when I add the cold water it will bond together quicker. 


ROBIN DILL: I think we got pie dough!

But what’s pie dough without the filling? Two decades ago Dill decided to take that part of her parent’s recipe on the road.  

AUDIO: What I’ll do is once this is done, I’ll put it in the refrigerator and it’ll be ready for when we go in the morning.  


DILL PRAYS: Well, Lord, I just pray over all of this stuff…

Packed tightly in the backseat of her black Volkswagen Beetle, 40 pounds of apples, more than a dozen pie pans, canisters of spices and that huge bowl of chilled pie dough from the day before.

ROBIN: We’re off for apple pie day.


Along with her inherited baking skills, Dill has a history of serving dementia patients and their caregivers. When she started her first respite program for adults in 2005, she introduced her staff and her patients to apple pie making. 

ROBIN DILL: The volunteers thought I was crazy. And I said, you know, I think, that this is an activity that will meet them on several levels. It will spark memories. It will be therapeutic to be working the dough, to be smelling the spices, or helping cutting up the apples. And it was a home run. They loved it. 

Then in 2018 she left the program she started.

ROBIN DILL: Just felt like God was calling me out to do more, not globally but outside the local church to go into more communities and help start respite ministries.


ROBIN DILL: Alright! Well, here we are. Hi Bob. Hi…the pie lady is here. Yes the pie lady has returned.

Today Dill is living out that call at a local facility that supports people living with dementia. It’s about an hour away from her home. With the Johnny Appleseed song in her heart, she makes her way to the center’s kitchen.

ROBIN SINGING: For giving me the things I need…

In a matter of minutes she unloads the pie dough, apples, aprons and the hair nets.  Denise, a grandmother, is instantly enraptured. 

DENISE: I’ve turned into Aunt Lorraine. She always had one of these on her head.

ROBIN TO STEVE: Hey Steve I’m glad to see you this morning.

Steve has gray hair with dark, thick eyebrows. He’s initially reserved and silent, that is until Dill puts a rolling pin in his hands.

ROBIN AND STEVE: Press…. Good. Have you done this before? Did your dad bake pies? Grandma? (heavy sigh) They died. Oh, I’m sorry…

Then she puts Denise in charge of the apples: coring, peeling and slicing.

ROBIN DILL:  Ok, you crank. Perfect. Keep going. Look at you.
DENISE: I love it!
ROBIN DILL: Isn’t that cool?

Rod, burly and at times impatient, mixes the apples and the spices.

ROD: Can I go ahead and put my top on?
ROBIN DILL: Not yet. We’ve got to have apples in there. He’s so funny.

ROBIN DILL: Even people whose brains are failing them, they still want to be purposeful.

After about two hours of apple peeling, dough rolling and crust pinching, Dill jubilantly displays 13 unbaked apple pies across a white table cloth. Denise, Rod and Steve will get to share the fruits of their labor with their caregivers, another benefit of apple pie making.

MYRNA BROWN: How do you feel when you look at what you’ve accomplished?
DENISE: I’m hungry… (laughter)

As her parents did so many years ago, Dill peeks inside the oven and pulls out the flakiest crust she says you’ll ever eat.

DENISE: Ahhhh ummmmmm, this is so good. So good.
ROBIN HILL: My tummy says it’s happy, what does your tummy say?

For WORLD Radio, I’m Myrna Brown reporting from Duluth, Georgia.

(Photo/Myrna Brown)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. 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 WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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