Detail from the site of the Kennedy Biscuit Company, 129 Franklin Street, Cambridge.

Something about pie just brings people together, and Renee McLeod knows that more than most

By Beth Folsom, 2022

Detail from the site of the Kennedy Biscuit Company, 129 Franklin Street, Cambridge.
Detail from the site of the Kennedy Biscuit Company, 129 Franklin Street, Cambridge. Photo by author.

Pies savory and sweet are a staple of holidays, family get-togethers and celebrations of all kinds throughout our diverse populations. What is it about pie that brings people together? On Thursday, History Cambridge hosts a pie-baking demonstration by board member Renee McLeod, a veteran baker, small-business owner and longtime resident. This intimate gathering will introduce attendees to crusts and fillings for sweet pies through McLeod’s tried-and-true techniques, and will support the organization’s mission to collect and share the stories of all Cantabrigians.

Speaking with WBUR in 2020, McLeod said, “I opened because I thought pie brings people together,” she said of her bakery, Petsi Pies. “You give someone something delicious – sweet or savory – and communication happens.” As recipes are passed down through generations in a family and shared with friends and neighbors from different cultural traditions, these baked goods become a symbol of continuity, collaboration and comfort. This is true in Cambridge as it is everywhere, and the city has a rich history of baking – within the home and in commercial bakeries.

The 1850 Cambridge City Directory lists six bakeries; by 1900 this number was up to 46, and in 1950 it was similarly high at 43. Perhaps the most famous of these bakeries was the Kennedy Biscuit Co. at 129 Franklin St. near Central Square, now repurposed as the Kennedy Biscuit Lofts. Founded in 1869, Kennedy – and later its parent company, Nabisco – created such now-classic cookies as Fig Newtons, Lorna Doone shortbread and Oreos. More recently, upscale bakery-cafes such as Flour and Tatte dot the city’s landscape and provide the city’s residents with treats familiar and innovative.

Pies have long been a staple of the holiday season, and guests at the Thursday fundraiser will leave with recipes in hand to add some sweetness to celebratory tables. Hosted by board member Elizabeth Adams at her Hubbard Park Road home, the evening will begin with light hors d’oeuvres followed by a one-hour demonstration by McLeod. Rounding out the night will be a Q&A session and pie tasting. History Cambridge welcomes all to this celebration of culinary creativity, connection and curiosity that helps support local history! Event information and registration can be found on the History Cambridge Website.

  • “Pies with Petsi: A Fundraiser for History Cambridge” with Renee McLeod is at 6 p.m. Thursday at 26 Hubbard Park Road, West Cambridge. Tickets are $60. Information is here.