I walked into Lisa's Kitchen the other day and Lisa Urffer had me right where she wanted me. I almost hit the ceiling as the invisible waves of Thanksgiving nostalgia bore me aloft and made me crave pie.
I didn't crave pie on the spot, of course. I craved pie at my mother's holiday table 35 years ago. And that was Urffer's plan, see? I couldn't leave there without a pie any more than a fly could leave a spider's web without being eaten.
The place is formally called Pappy's Orchard and Lisa's Kitchen. It is two businesses in one: the orchard, where the Urffer family has been growing fruits for generations, and the bakery, where Lisa snares people in her inescapable olfactory maze.
In the showroom, there were pies everywhere — pecan pies, apple pies, peach pies, cherry pies, blueberry pies — and a dozen varieties of breads and rolls and great stacks of whoopie pies (maybe you call them gobs) and racks of wine and baskets of fruit.
"This is the time of year that everybody bakes for the memories," Urffer said. "Where the memory lane will take them."
It took me places: back to childhood, to that stretch of days between Halloween and Christmas when everything in the world seemed lit from inside by a great golden candle.
It took me to my grandmother's pantry in Connecticut, to my aunt's house in North Carolina, to my old friend Charlie's house one Thanksgiving 20 years ago when life looked bleak but the food and the company healed everything.
"Don't leave without the pumpkin-cranberry loaf," a woman told me. She turned out to be Janet Bonekemper, a regular customer who was as enchanted as I was by the way the smell of the place worked on the brain.
"To me it's memories, it's the country," she said. "It's the kind of thing I like my grandson to experience. He's from Florida and this is all very different to him."
I knew what she meant. I always feel sorry at this time of year for people who live in tropical climates and don't know the joy of a warm November hearth as the wind whistles and a chill rain falls — though I'm sure those people feel a great deal sorrier for us when the holidays have passed and the wind is still whistling and the rain has turned to snow.
I met another customer, Richard Sotak, who said he buys raisin bread and white bread and other things from the Urffers but is particularly keen on the shoofly pie.
He knows the family well and mentioned how Lisa and Michael Urffer had raised seven good kids, all of whom have helped run the business.
"Quite a family," he said.
It sounded like it. I bought a pecan pie and drove back to the office in the rain, imagining a Thanksgiving table with a hundred familiar faces around it and plenty to eat for everyone.