Cookbook Author Is Selling Thanksgiving Pies to Fight Ovarian Cancer
Adeena Sussman bakes pies. Hundreds of them. And she’s raised over $500,000 for ovarian cancer support services doing it.
Though Tel Aviv resident and author of autumn's smash hit cookbook Sababa is known for her creative renditions of Israeli cuisine, Adeena Sussman will spend this Thanksgiving in New York, the same way she always does: baking for Pies for Prevention, which raises money for ovarian cancer programming.
Working with Sharsheret, a Jewish nonprofit that supports women with breast or ovarian cancer and their families, Sussman and her sister Sharon Wieder started the bake sale 11 years ago to honor their mother and maternal grandmother, who died of ovarian cancer three years apart, in 2006 and 2009, respectively.
Wieder, who is in remission for breast cancer, relied on Sharsheret services when she was undergoing treatment. Their mother was a big influence in the kitchen, so cooking felt like a natural way to honor her—though Sussman says her mother tended to bake bundt cakes more than pies, probably because butter crusts served after a meat dinner wouldn’t be kosher (Sussman grew up modern orthodox).
When Sussman and Wieder started Pies for Prevention in 2009 out of Wieder’s Teaneck, NJ, home, they figured it might be a one-time thing. But then they raised $16,000 that first year and they knew they were onto something. “It just kind of took on a life of its own,” says Sussman.
This year Pies for Prevention is operating in 31 cities around the United States and the world, from Palo Alto (where Sussman and Wieder were raised) to Sussman’s adopted home of Tel Aviv.
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Most of the bake sale ingredients and locations are kosher, though it varies and is specified on the website. Pies typically cost $20 and are picked up in person a day or two before the holiday. For Sussman, pie pick-up day—usually the day before Thanksgiving—is a social event, formerly hosted in her Upper West Side apartment and now held in the home of a neighbor. She heats up some apple cider, puts out some chips and pumpkin-cranberry loaf, and greets friends and strangers as they come through for pie. Some run in and out, while others linger to share in the holiday spirit.
“Every year more bake sales get added,” says Sussman. “It happens organically. We’ve never recruited anyone. We’ve never sought out the bakers; they are just kind of a self-selecting group of people who are passionate about this, which is really, really cool."
Sussman says that she and her sister know about half the volunteers in some way. But half are strangers who were moved to get involved either because they have been impacted by ovarian cancer or simply because it seemed like a meaningful but fun holiday project.
Anyone who wants to volunteer to start a Pies for Prevention bake sale in their city is welcome and assumes responsibility for sourcing all the ingredients. They get as much as they can donated by grocery stores and food companies, and customers can also chip in additional funds that are earmarked to offset ingredient costs.
Volunteering is no small commitment. Sussman estimates that she, her sister, and an assistant alone bake about 700 items over three days using three ovens. They go through well over 1,000 eggs.
Which is why the sisters decided from the beginning that they’d keep things simple. They offer pumpkin pie, pecan pie, chocolate chip cookie dough pie, peanut butter chocolate blondies (also available gluten free), and pumpkin cranberry bread (offerings vary by location). They rely on frozen pie crusts because they couldn’t crank out as many pies if they made them all from scratch. “We are happy with that decision; people love the pies, and the idea is to raise money—plus they’re delicious.”
And, while they plan on sticking to basics, there’s also a chance that the Sababa influence may work its way into Pies for Prevention: Sussman says that she is considering adding the signature tahini brownies from her cookbook to next year’s offerings.
Online ordering is currently open for most participating cities and runs through mid November. Check out the complete list of Pies for Prevention locations here.