Kak Mariam and her amazing apple pies


While brainstorming with the team at University of Southampton Malaysia (UoSM) about what should go into the contents of my TEDx Talk, I thought about Kak Mariam and how my published story on her resulted in an overwhelming number of orders for her apple pies.

Wedges of Kak Mariam's apple pie
My story, “Royal approval for apple pie” about Kak Mariam’s home-baked apple pies that were popular with the royal families, was published in Travel Times, a pull-out section of The New Straits Times in 2007.

When I shared this with the team, they agreed that it was an interesting point to share in my TEDx Talk on, Connecting People through My Johor Stories.

I clearly remember the words of Mariam Hassan, better known as Kak Mariam, the pie lady in Mersing who said, “To you, it was only writing a story but for me, my whole life changed!”

At that time, Kak Mariam was based in Mersing.

Kak Mariam presenting her apple pie
She said she would even receive orders from holiday-makers heading to the nearby islands off the coast of Mersing and on their return, they would drop by to collect the freshly baked apple pies.

She was absolutely thrilled with the keen response to her apple pies and she told me, she even received a call from an ex-boyfriend!

It’s been 12 years since my story was published and she is still baking her apple pies to fulfill hundreds of orders, especially during the festive seasons.

Her whole life had indeed changed.

So after I had whet their appetites with my apple pie recollections, the enthusiastic UoSM team asked for Kak Mariam’s contact number because they wanted to place an order for her apple pies – not only for themselves – but to share with the speakers and audience.

While the team was organizing the schedule for each speaker’s turn, I volunteered to speak before the refreshment break.

A freshly-baked apple pie from Kak Mariam's kitchen
They agreed because after the audience had heard my talk, where I would mention these awesome apple pies, then it would be timely for them enjoy a taste of these pies during the break.

At first, they had planned to serve her apple pies to the speakers and guests on the TEDx Talk event’s tea break but they decided to enjoy the apple pies for the Rehearsal as there would be a catered meal complete with cakes and coffee on the event day.

So at our Rehearsal, I was pleasantly surprised when the team invited us to stay back to enjoy Kak Mariam’s apple pie!

Looking back, the highlight of the Rehearsal must have been these tasty apple pies!

I remember the shouts of excitement when those who were serving, discovered that the pies were still warm from the oven.

Serving apple pie at the close of our Rehearsal event
When it was served, my fellow speakers and I graciously accepted a wedge each.

While we were still slowly savouring its lovely taste, some of the youngsters who had finished their portions were already waiting in line for a second helping.

I saw four pies in opened cardboard boxes on the table and it did not take long for the last wedge to be snapped up!

Since we already had a taste of Kak Mariam’s apple pies at the Rehearsal, I did not expect to see her pies again at the event proper because I was told that there was cake in the catered menu.

That morning when I arrived at the Educity auditorium for the TEDx Talk event, the organisers could not contain their excitement but told me that what was originally arranged for tea was cancelled and replaced by Kak Mariam’s apple pies!

Everyone enjoyed a portion (or more!) of
Kak Mariam's apple pie at TEDx UoSM
Wow! This meant that everyone present at the event would have the opportunity to taste these lovely apple pies too!

This little update added a bit of cheer and somehow reduced the mounting tension before I was invited to present my talk.

Later, I learnt from Kak Mariam that she baked a large number of apple pies to be served at the event while there was a separate order from the UoSM undergraduates who wanted to take her pies home to share with their parents, families and friends.

The TEDx Talk event marked the close of a semester at University of Southampton Malaysia and as they would be leaving for home the very next day, it was ideal to bring back a buah tangan in the form of Kak Mariam’s amazing apple pies.


I’m just so happy for Kak Mariam, to see how her pies are certainly going places.

Here’s the link to my TEDx Talk, Connecting People through My Johor Stories.