The QT Pi(e) Project
On “Pi Day” (3/14/10), small pies were delivered via bicycle, to homes in various Pittsburgh neighborhoods, which included some portion of the number π (3.1415) in their address. The pie packaging included maps comparing the origin of the conventional “Cutie Pie” ingredients versus the local ingredients (Allegheny County) of the delivered “QT Pi(e)s” and a reference to π. The packages were photographed at the locations and documented for a blog. The project was funded by a Seed Award from The Sprout Fund.
What is unique or innovative about this idea? What was the inspiration for the project? What influenced my thinking about the project?
When I travel in urban contexts, I like to have my picture taken in doorways whose address matches my age as a way of marking my time spent on that journey. In my daydreams about having my own bakery, I envisioned having it at a 314 address and calling it QT Pi’s, a play on math, my baking and my initials (Quelcy Trenae). Rather than wait for the fateful day of finding the location and having the funds to start a bakery, I arrived at the idea of making the project a community oriented, concept art project with a tasty educational aspect.
I come from a line of farmers and have seen my father struggle to promote locally raised, free-range, beef cattle against market standards that protect and encourage factory farms. Food politics have influenced my reading, my shopping, my eating, my cooking and baking, but rather than preach about it, my goal is always to encourage people to develop food convictions through their own choices.
We all deserve to pick up an apple and eat it without wondering what pesticides will linger in our bodies and affect our health later in life, but this requires drastic changes to how we have been living. There needs to be a return to traditional values and notions of community in place of massive, cheap production. Delivering pies to doorsteps hearkens an era of milkmen and borrowing the last bit of flour from a neighbor to finish a recipe for homemade bread for the family to eat while gathered around a table, not a television.
However, a pie on a doorstep is not enough. Including resources such as a local food guide helps to instill the message. Hence, I opened my idea to my friend Erin Pischke for her interest in mapping, information sharing and for her ideas stemming from her days living off the land as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala.
I also enlisted the participation of my friend and photographer Adam Browning to document our efforts in an artistic way. Adam also knows the city well as a cyclist. Rather than deliver with a vehicle for his sandwich delivery job, Adam has taken to the bicycle and taken a stand for alternative transportation. Finally, we found an eager assistant in Edgar Martinez, who volunteered to aid in the biking endeavor.
These are my friends, and they are people who think creatively as well eco-consciously. For these reasons, I have sought their participation to make my idea a reality on various doorsteps in Pittsburgh and maybe one day in other cities as well.
What issues in the Pittsburgh region are the focus of the project? How does the project address these community issues?
The project uses a quirky play on math and words to drive the concept of local eating. The pies allow the taste buds to be convinced that local ingredients are not only more wholesome but equally, if not more, delicious than their conventional counterparts. A homemade pie represents an American tradition, but America has lost touch with its traditions, agrarian roots, and the mental/physical/spiritual/communal aspects of eating. A typical carrot has to travel 1,838 miles* to reach the dinner table while only 22% of Americans own passports.** Our food is traveling more than we are!
As the relationship to land and agriculture has diminished, obesity and diet-related diseases have increased; excessive packaging has contributed to excessive waste issues; extensive transportation of food fosters oil dependency; nutrients in foods have diminished due to pesticide use, early harvesting and lengthy shipping times; and the demand for cheap foods has led to factory farms and hormone-pumped meat sources.
Many journalists and food activists have suggested a return to local eating as a way to reverse these effects. For the Pittsburgh region, this means promoting awareness and taking advantage of the tremendous agricultural resources available. Groups like Grow Pittsburgh, Slow Foods Pittsburgh and PASA have established a strong link between the country mouse and the city mouse.
The QT Pi(e) Project’s continued aim is to promote awareness of both the local resources (such as the farmers markets and local foods available in eating establishments and grocery stores) and the larger resources that have informed my knowledge of these issues. The printed packaging materials delivered to doorsteps relied on mapping to draw awareness to the issues of local eating. Maps compared the origins of conventional pies to the pie project, highlighted farmers’ market locations, local eating establishments and community gardens, as well as shared links to other informational resources.
To see more about The QT Pi(e) Project, click here.