Connie Toteanu has a special talent. From the age of seven, Miss Toteanu has been entering pies into the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Fair. According to the new children’s book Connie, Vineyard Pie Girl, by Chilmarker Don Davis, “Over the years she won many ribbons — some blue.”
The book tells a story of a girl and her grandmother, Nanny B — also known as Eileen Blake. Mrs. Blake, as Vineyarders will know, is the chief baker and, along with her husband, Roger, the proprietor of Eileen Blake’s Pies and Otherwise, the classic Vineyard pie shop on State Road. The stand has 140 pies, freshly baked each morning, starting as early as 3 a.m.
According to Connie, Vineyard Pie Girl, “the ‘Otherwise’ means all the other things that Nanny B and her family make — like muffins, cupcakes, cookies and jelly.” Now that the book is out, the shop sells that as well.
From the time she was six weeks old, Nanny B was her primary babysitter, so Ms. Toteanu’s cooking experiences began young. “I would sneak into the bake shop,” she said this week from Harwich where she is working as a pastry cook at Twenty Eight Atlantic, a restaurant in the Wequassett Resort and Golf Club.
“Originally they would let me make the marks that we cut into the top crust to distinguish one flavor from another. From there I went on to doing pretty much everything,” she added.
A bake shop was a great place to grow up, Ms. Toteanu recalled. “We had a lot of fun. We would laugh a lot.”
Mr. Davis, the former chief executive of Stanley Works and a longtime Vineyard resident, got the idea for the book when he was at the stand, hearing Mr. Blake explain that all the pies are handmade. Mr. Blake mentioned that Connie, then 18 years old, had been baking pies since the age of seven. On the drive home Mr. Davis’s son Palmer said that Ms. Toteanu’s story would make a good children’s book. Mr. Davis started talking to Ms. Toteanu’s family; within a year the book was published.
Connie, Vineyard Pie Girl is illustrated by Joan Walsh, an Irish-born Island resident who also illustrated his first children’s book, last year’s Little Streak-Wing’s Vineyard Adventure. The title character is a young seagull who frequents a dump on the Vineyard instead of learning from his parents about working to find food. The new book’s moral parallels that of the prior one; as Mr. Davis puts it, “Grandmothers know everything.”
Proceeds from the book will go toward the expenses of Ms. Toteanu’s education at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y.
Mr. Davis will read and sign books starting at 10 a.m. Saturday at Edgartown Books.
Sadly, the Gazette learned at press time yesterday that Eileen Blake had died. A notice appears on Page Two.