The stock simile just goes to show how little proverb-makers know about (let us say) apple pie, to say nothing of sisters and cousins and aunts like strudel, baklava, Cornish pasties, and Linzertorte. Purdy, a New York-area food columnist and author of several cookbooks for children, can by no stretch of the imagination be said to have made all of these easy--but she does make them and a host of kindred preparations remarkably accessible to anyone who can follow directions. ""Pie"" must be understood here in a decidedly Pickwickian sense embracing just about anything that involves an edible foundation (or topping) and a filling, from a creampuff to a cobbler. Sensibly, Purdy begins with a basic pastry recipe clearly showing some foundations of technique and the relation of American flaky pastry, French pÃ¢te brisÃ‰e, and German Muerbteig, followed by a chapter of some two dozen recipes for other pastry doughs and such non-pastry vehicles as crumb crusts and meringue or chocolate shells. A chapter of fillings, toppings, and garnishes completes this introductory third of the book; the rest is given over to every conceivable variation on the foundation/filling theme. American fruit pies are mightily represented. So are custard and chiffon pies, the quiche and strudel tribes, and a large variety of meat--or fish-filled pastries (clam pie, kulebiaka, a modern version of the four-and-twenty-blackbird scenario). Purdy finds time for buried ethnic treasures (Pennsylvania Dutch ""milk pies""), non-pie pies (Boston cream), and appealing bastardizations (a sort-of-Chinese pork filling in phyllo dough) along with sturdy classics like Normandy apple tart, hamantaschen, plum kuchen, and chicken pot pie. Directions are of the leave-nothing-to-chance school: long, painstaking, and detailed enough to necessitate a somewhat cumbersome (though clear) format. This is one of the best single-subject cookbooks of recent years, and a manual for all seasons.