Serving it Up: A pie born out of joy

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Betty Sumner has a culinary calling card.

The Farmville United Methodist Church holds a church supper each week, and she has observed that people in attendance typically look for her regular contribution to that meal — Japanese Fruit Pie.

It is not her own creation, but it is one she makes to perfection.

The fact that people are on the lookout for it is a compliment, and so too is the fact that there is never any of it left by the end of the church meals. People love it.

“I’m glad they do,” she said. “I probably ought to try doing a different kind of pie, but the whole point is people seem to really like this one, so that’s the reason I thought, ‘I’ll just keep with this one.’”

In pondering how she came upon the recipe, her thoughts turned to her late husband, Kyle Sumner, who passed away in 2008.

“He loved pie,” she said. “That was one of his favorite things was having pie and a cup of coffee.”

She made a wide variety of pies for him.

“Luckily he wasn’t a diabetic,” she said.

She said she was not sure if she had ever made the Japanese Fruit Pie for him, but she affirmed that his interest in pies is at least what led her in the direction of that recipe.

“I made different kinds of pie, and then somehow I don’t really know exactly how I started this one, but I feel like it’s relatively healthy with the nuts and the coconut and raisins, so I do feel like it’s not all just sugar,” she said.

She also said she thinks it is actually an easy pie to make.

“You’ve got to be sure you’ve got all your ingredients, and you can either use walnuts or pecans,” she said. “Most of the time I’ll use walnuts. I feel like they’re probably better, but you can use either, and you can use either butter or margarine.”

Sumner noted that she learned to cook from her mother, who was a great cook. But Sumner did not utilize her own abilities much until she got married at the age of 19.

She said that since her husband’s passing, she does not do much cooking anymore. Exceptions, however, include church events and the Heart of Virginia Festival, where she has brought homemade candy.

She agreed that sweets are probably her favorite kind of food to make, and then she applied a prior comment to herself.

“It’s a good thing I’m not a diabetic,” she said.

Then her thoughts turned back to the main reason she has cooked over the years.

“My husband, he just loved food …,” she said. “It was really a joy cooking for him …”



1 stick butter

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup coconut

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1 tablespoon vinegar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup raisins


Melt butter.

Cream first three ingredients together (eggs, sugar and butter).

Add remaining ingredients and pan into unbaked pie shell.

Bake 40 minutes at 325 degrees in the oven.