Some readers might recall my excitement when I participated in last year’s Pietopia contest, an event that asks the important question, “What does your life taste like, in a pie?” and challenges participants to answer with words and baked goods.

In honor of this year’s event, which promises to be more delicious than ever, I spoke with Tricia Martin, the creator of Pietopia, about how pie helps us communicate, and why pie makes a better metaphor than cake.

Everybody’s Invited!: What was the inspiration for Pietopia?

Tricia Martin: Connecting community, food, and design. I wanted a way to embrace all the things that were important to me and manifest it as a shared experience.

EI!: Pietopia was originally a local event in Portland, OR. What made you decide to open it up to a national audience this year?

TM: I wanted to “taste” a broader audience, if you will. I also have some great sponsorship from the lovely women over at The Creative Connection who are helping out with lots of logistics—a huge help for me!

EI!: The contest combines food with words and even art. Why do you think it’s important to make these connections?

TM: Food, words, and art are all forms of communication; each literally says something but they are just in different formats. I feel it is important to make the connection clear for people because more often than not, people are saying similar or the same things. One person may express themselves through writing, another through a painting, and another in the kitchen. Calling out the basic underlying message between these three seemingly very different approaches was an interesting challenge that I loved and still love. Food is the most accessible format of communication for the masses to understand—no matter what language you speak, what socio-economic background you are from, your education level, your race, your age, or your gender. I thought that if I could make the link between this highly accessible format of communicating, with those two other formats of communicating (which can be more exclusive), that would be pretty cool.

EI!: This would never work with cake. What is it about pie, do you think, that lends itself to personal storytelling?

TM: The metaphor of a pie is also cross cultural and understood by so many people. The crust—as the outside, the shell, the holder, the container—and the filling—the surprise, the inside—are unmistakably metaphors for people and mankind; without mankind, there would be no stories or memories, thus the pie as a metaphor for people and their lives/stories/memories. Cake, while it holds a special place in my heart because it’s delicious, could never hold the metaphor of pie because it’s too straightforward; what you see is what you get and this is rarely the case with human beings. Pie historically has lent itself to storytelling via the community aspects it evokes. I’ve been privy to hearing stories of generations of pie makers in small towns helping out each other in times of need, dropping off pies to families going through a rough time, where pie is an expression of love and giving. And what comes around goes around—so I believe that when edible love is given, good stories and warm memories are given back.

EI!: Do you have a favorite pie-related memory?

TM: Pie memory? Honestly, I started making pie because I was told pie dough was too hard to make by hand. My pie dough has evolved into what it is today from lots of practice and sharing pie recipes and stories with countless people across the country—all of which I am forever grateful for. Pie wasn’t particularly something that was a family tradition or made too often—in fact, I come from more of a cake family. But I think the challenge of being told “pie dough is too hard to do,” discovering that I loved all pie, and then realizing how it is the perfect metaphor for people and life (and that other people think so too), my personal pie story is still en route and growing.

Entries are now being accepted for the 2011 Pietopia Contest. Winners will be flown to the event, which will be held in conjunction with the Creative Connection, in St. Paul, Minnesota.