Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. is a Gynecologist, Director of the New York Menopause Center, Clinical Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Assistant Attending Obstetrician and Gynecologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She is a board certified fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Allen is also a member of the Faculty Advisory Board and the Women’s Health Director of The Weill Cornell Community Clinic (WCCC). Dr. Allen was the recipient of the 2014 American Medical Women’s Association Presidential Award.

My friend Adam Dolle wrote me last week to let me know that his mother, Viola Dolle, had died after only a brief illness. Mrs. Dolle was a devout Catholic who traveled to Rome when she was 90 for an outdoor Christmas Eve Mass celebrated by Pope John Paul II. She lived a long life with attention and affection given to all those around her. She had a life that I am honored to remember.

The St.Petersburg Times chose Viola’s life to celebrate in their weekly edition, describing her excitement when she visited Rome and her passion for baseball after her dear husband died: She had never cared about it until then, but became a devoted fan of the Rays. She watched every game, and even stayed up until 2:30 in the morning watching playoff games that went into extra innings.

But I have my own memory of Violet, one that never made it into that article: It was about my mother’s blueberry pie — which became Mrs. Dolle’s.

Until now I have hidden the secret to that pie, which was a sure success every summer. The secret is that I had stolen the recipe from the wife of the local general surgeon in Columbia, Ky., Mrs. Aaron. I then told everyone that I had just created this pie myself. I know it was a lie but it is a Southern cooking lie, and those don’t count toward Hell.

But when I told my friend Adam this year that I couldn’t find my recipe, he told me that my mother had sent the recipe to his mother over 20 years ago. Our mothers had met at my home in New York City, and the pie had been served for dessert. Viola Dolle had asked my mother for the recipe.

A few days after I talked to Adam, I received a beautifully hand written note from Mrs. Dolle. May 16, 2009:

Dear Pat,

I’m so glad to be able to send you the original recipe for the blueberry pie that your dear Mom sent to me years ago. I’ve made the pie so many times and it’s delicious. Enjoy.


Vi Dolle

Vi with a strawberry pie, when she was 98.

Mrs. Dolle was 99 then. She sent along the recipe written by my mother on one of those ’80s note pads that I used to get as gifts: At the top of the hot pink paper in big type:


Mommie had used a hot pink thin magic marker pen to write the recipe onto this shameless card.



1. One home baked pie crust

Now, Southern cooks know that a recipe given to another woman, even a nice woman who didn’t live in your town, would always be filled with deceit and sneaky one-ups-womanship. As if “one home-baked pie crust” was just a simple thing to produce. Mommie was a master at pie crusts…so thin that I could never imagine what force she used to press the rolled out rich dough into the pie pans, so flaky that the filling was just an excuse to get to the pie crust. And Edna could make pie crusts while talking on the phone, helping with homework, singing to a child, basting a roast…it was always a miracle.

2. Filling

1 quart blueberries
¾ C sugar
1 C water
2 tablespoons of corn starch

Boil water and 1 C blueberries with sugar for 2 minutes. Strain through sieve. Add corn starch and cook the blueberry sauce until it thickens just a bit. You notice that she never said how long to cook that sauce or how thick was thick…”just a bit.”

Chill blueberry sauce.

Before placing the fresh blueberries into the cooked pie shell, place a thin layer of softened cream cheese on the bottom of the pie shell. Fill the pie shell with uncooked blueberries. Notice that thin layer of cream cheese can be interpreted in a number of ways. Mommie always put too much cream cheese. I wanted only a waft of cream cheese over that delicious crust. “This is not a cheese cake,” I would argue.

Then dribble the chilled blueberry sauce over the blueberries. Mommie and I always fought over that sauce. She made it too sweet. That recipe should say, 1/2 C sugar, not ¾ C.  I am appalled that Mrs. Dolle served a pie that was too sweet all those years.

I have this memory of those days in the kitchen with Mommie because Vi Dolle saved this hand-written recipe from my mother for all those years. Then she sent it to me to keep.

I am the recipient of her care now, as I have decoded that recipe written by my mother for Vi to keep all those years. I weep for Vi’s kindness. I weep for Adam’s loss.

And, now all of you have the famous blueberry pie recipe saved by Vi, fought over by Mommie and me, and stolen from Mrs. Aaron.

Remember, just start with one home-made pie crust.

Join the conversation

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • Natasha Hopkinson October 28, 2009 at 10:47 am

    Dear Pat,
    You have been my doctor for the past 7 years since I came to New York and I would change your hot pink note pad heading by adding “A very kind”. It should read…
    FROM a very kind and BEAUTIFUL,
    Thank you for your care….. Natasha

  • Adam Dolle October 19, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    Dear Pat, Thanks for such a beautiful entry on my Mom, your Mom, and the infamous Blueberry Pie. It brings back such fond memories of the summer evening, probably in “84 or “85, on the terrace of your townhouse apartment on Madison Avenue where we enjoyed such a great lunch together. Last week while looking through a mountain of old photos that my Mom kept, I found a wonderfully sentimental photo taken of my Mom and myself there. I’ll have to show it to you one day.