FAIRFIELD, Iowa — After studying floriculture and horticulture and spending much of her life helping people put the final touches on their homes, Linda Pettit knows a thing or two about presentation.
That knowledge carries over to her cooking, where she prides herself on the look of her pies and other creations.
“Presentation is a big thing to me,” Pettit said. “A lot of that I learned in 4-H. How to set a table, how to present your food and make it look appetizing. If it doesn’t look good, people aren’t going to want to try it.”
From topping a pie with holly leaves and red hots to lattice, she wants people to take note of her desserts.
“I’m known in town for my pies,” Pettit said. “The latest one was at Christmas and the ‘Little Superheroes’ — it’s a family that had a child with a birth defect, so they have a big celebration and decorate trees and sell them, so I provide pies for that.”
She also participates in Rotary Club, and in some of their auctions she said it’s not unusual to see some pies go for $500 to $700. The most one of her pies ever sold for was at a country club fundraiser where someone flew in from Colorado to buy her banana cream pie for $1,500.
Some of her favorite pies are the softer pies with meringues, banana cream and — her husband’s personal favorite — chocolate cream. She’s also more than willing to take on other challenges, such as cinnamon rolls, casseroles and other desserts.
Pettit grew up in southwest Iowa near Massena. She was involved in 4-H, and it was one of her favorite opportunities to be social and meet people away from the farm she grew up on.
While in 4-H, she did photography, baking and refinishing furniture as well as raising sheep and cattle for the boys in her group.
“Back then the lines were drawn pretty much between girls and boys,” she said. “One year would be cooking, one it would be home furnishing and another would be sewing.”
She also participated in livestock judging for Cass County as the only girl on the team, once finishing fourth in the nation.
“We traveled to Chicago,” she said. “That was my first airplane ride. That was exciting to go to the big city and stay in a hotel room — those were all new experiences to me.”
She also won an essay contest through her local REC and earned a trip with the other winners from Iowa to Washington, D.C. while Lyndon B. Johnson was president. The trip ended with a reception with President Johnson’s daughters.
Pettit went to Kirkwood Community College, moved to Fairfield in 1967, and the rest, as they say, is history. She spent 17 years working in a flower shop, then an opportunity arose to take over her own business, Finishing Touch of Fairfield, which specialized in home decoration.
After 35 years, Pettit is now retired, and can spend more time with her husband of 50 years and keeping track of their three adult sons.