The thunderbolt of a recipephany can strike when you least expect it. This one walloped us during a visit to New York’s famous Whitney Museum. It’s a gem of a pie inspired by Liza Lou’s Kitchen, a full-scale vintage kitchen completely bedazzled in colorfully sparkling glass beads.
Brilliant and beguiling, Kitchen takes us to an enchanted world. Every object, every surface radiates joy. Even the dishes in the sink, soaking in the swirl of Starry Night-style beaded dishwater, gleam with the richness of the Crown Jewels.
I define art as something that looks like it took a really long time to make. No doubt about it here. Lou spent five years in the early 1990s gluing millions of beads to cover every inch of her dream kitchen.
More than just a vision of whimsy, Kitchen evolved into a serious tribute to Lou’s unsung heroes: the housewives of the mid 20th Century. Underneath all the sparkling veneer—a visual sugarcoating—lies a humdrum world with all the drudgery that comes with daily housework.
The work also wryly comments on life before Women’s Lib. For instance, caricatures of nudes lining the oven recall neon signs from a 1950s strip joint.
On the left side of the piece, piping hot from the oven, is a radiant, bejeweled cherry pie, with crust as golden as if Midas had rolled it out. And nearby on the counter, in intricate beading, lies a Betty-Crocker-style loose-leaf cookbook open to the recipe.
So what’s a baker to do? We had to make this pie.
At first, we wished Lou had beaded a can of cherry pie filling rather than a recipe. Even now, in cherry season, our grocery stores don’t carry fresh tart cherries. Their shelves are clean out of canned ones, and it took perseverance to finally nab some in the frozen case at our local Wegman’s.
But the hunt for cherries paid off with this sparkly pie filling. It tastes like Kitchen looks—sweet, acerbic, colorful—a perfect rendition of an American icon. And oh, this easy recipe beats any canned filling.
While it isn’t art, since it didn’t take long to make, here’s our interpretation of Kitchen’s sparkly cherry pie. Taking cues from the artist, we topped the crust with shimmering clear and golden sugar sprinkles. And, the cherries on top are balls of pastry covered in red sprinkles.
We offer this humble homage to Lou’s masterpiece honoring the women whose labor society took for granted—and who really knew how to make a great cherry pie.
For more photos and fun facts about Kitchen and how Liza Lou created it, visit the Whitney Museum.
Liza Lou’s Sparkly Cherry Pie
From Kitchen, Liza Lou, 1991–1996, Whitney Museum of American Art
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 tbsp flour
- Dash salt
- Soft butter
- Cherry juice
- Tart red cherries
- Drain cherries.
- Combine sugar, flour and salt.
- Stir cherry liquid.
- Cook and stir until bubbly.
Bake 40 min.
- Use about 4 ½ cups of frozen cherries, thawed and drained, reserving juice.
- For an easy and delicious crust, try the Screwdriver Pie Crust or Edith’s Flaky Pie Crust.
- Spread the soft butter onto the pastry bottom before pouring in filling. It helps keep the pastry from getting soggy.
- Combine 1 cup reserved juice with dry ingredients and cook in a saucepan until bubbly and slightly thickened. Let cool a few minutes, then combine with cherries and pour into pastry.
- Cover with top crust and poke it with a few holes using a cake tester or toothpick to let out steam (this may be for ritual only).
- If you want to feel like Liza Lou, brush the top crust with cream and shake on lots of clear sprinkles and a few gold ones if you want. Then top with 13 small pastry balls dipped in cream and rolled in red sprinkles.