The recent reopening of the historic Forum Cafeteria space no doubt prompted fans of the landmark downtown Minneapolis restaurant to daydream about pies. The old Forum was famous for its pies, thanks to Olen G. Shelton's 43 years of pie-baking experience.
Minneapolis Star columnist Barbara Flanagan profiled Shelton upon his 1973 retirement, just two years before the cafeteria called it quits. The man knew his stuff. During the Forum's 1950s heyday, long before the masses relied upon McDonald's, Subway and Chipotle for fast sustenance, Shelton said he and his crew turned out 700 pies a day, a figure that trickled to 150 by the early 1970s. "I think people worry about dieting nowadays and don't eat as much pie as they used to," he said.
Not Shelton, who ate a slice at lunch every day of his working life. He rattled off popular flavors from his vast repertoire, including apple, cherry, blueberry, fresh strawberry, pumpkin and the house specialty, prune chiffon. "Surprisingly popular, day in and day out," is how Shelton described it. "Young people call it the 'old folks pie,' but I notice all ages eating it."
Were it not for Taste's "Reader Exchange" column, a kind of pre-Internet recipe chat room, prune chiffon pie might be lost to history. Fortunately, a March 1981 query prompted Lillian Rood of Minneapolis to submit the following recipe. She said she received it from the Forum's main office many years earlier.
Shelton met his bride at the Forum. She was, naturally, a pie cutter. When Flanagan dropped by Shelton's northeast Minneapolis house, he had just pulled a pair of apple pies out of the oven.
"For company tonight," he said. "But would you like to try a piece?"