Labor Day is right around the corner, but I call your attention to a couple of tastier holidays this time of year. Last Thursday was Peach Pie Day and a month henceforth will be Strawberry Cream Pie Day. October will usher in Pumpkin Pie Day, as well as Boston Cream Pie Day. In November, we’ll celebrate Bavarian Cream Pie Day. Next May we’ll celebrate Apple Pie Day (and that one should be designated an American holiday).
These pie-eyed celebration days come and go with little more than crumbs for fanfare, but any attention to pie is a good thing in my book. Whether sweet or savory, fruit or cream, single or double-crust, bite-size (“cutie pies”?) or multiple-serving-size; you can never have too many fingers in pie.
Pie is literally a part of my DNA. My grandmother used to make delicious Cornish pasties, those hearty beef stew pocket-pies favored by generations of coal miners, each containing an entire meal within their flaky golden-brown crust. My mother raised my brothers and I on the fruit pies her own mother taught her to make. My favorites were cherry, peach, and mince; piping hot and a la mode (or in the case of mince, “a la hard sauce”). I can still picture my mother adorning her creations with strips of dough – elegant top-crust latticework too pretty to consume. She made it look easy as pie.
They say the signature of a great pie is its crust – ironic because history says pie crust was never meant to be eaten. With the advent of flour in ancient Roman times, pie crust served a practical purpose: to contain and preserve the food within, especially for a soldier or sailor or some other kind of several-days traveler. It wasn’t until bakers turned their attention to the crust when “real pie” was born. Can you imagine the first time someone tasted a savory buttery crust, melded with hot fruit filling, cooled by the freshness of vanilla ice cream? The whole is clearly greater than the sum of its parts.
Any Texans reading this post will likely direct me to the Hill Country in the southeast, to little Marble Falls or tiny Round Top. Both towns boast of serving “the best pies in the Lone Star State”, be that the Blue Bonnet Cafe in the former or Royer’s Cafe in the latter. Blue Bonnet has a “Pie Happy Hour” and a regionally-renowned German Chocolate Pie. (My favorite cake as a pie? Sounds like a slice of heaven.) Royer’s has something called a “Texas Trash Pie” (pretzels, graham crackers and coconut) and I can get one with a few clicks of my mouse. Don’t tempt me.
No nod to pie would be complete without saluting Hostess Fruit Pies and Kellogg’s Pop Tarts – staples of the American childhood. Hostess enticed you with those colorful wrappers and the promise of “real fruit filling” (though my favorite was actually the chocolate). No matter the flavor, you consumed a brick’s worth of glazed sugar, chewy crust, and gooey fruit filling. It’s a wonder we didn’t sink to the bottom of our swimming pools and bathtubs.
Kellogg’s Pop Tarts were svelte by comparison; a deck of large playing cards. My mother favored the non-frosted fruit variety to keep our pantry “healthy”, but she snuck the brown-sugar cinnamon tarts into the basket too. I ate hundreds of those. Someone needs to invent a brown-sugar cinnamon pie.
Any Hollywood-types reading this post would remind me the ultimate pie movie is “Waitress” (now a Broadway musical), or “Michael”, where in one glorious scene Andie McDowell surveys a table’s worth of pie and gleefully sings, “Pie, pie, me-oh-my, I love pie!”
Thanks to a new local restaurant, I don’t have to travel to Texas to find amazing pie. 3.14 Sweet & Savory Pi Bar is as inclusive as it sounds. Choose from a dozen or more “Pot Pi’s” for your entree (my favorite is the Irish-stew-inspired “Guinness Sakes”); then sprint to dessert by choosing from over twenty temptations (hello “Blueberry Fields Forever” Pi).
For the record, cake gets its share of celebrations as well. Last Wednesday was “Sponge Cake Day” and November 26th is “National Cake Day”. For me, those days will come and go like any other. Those who celebrate cake should eat some humble pie and admit which dessert deserves the higher praise. But hey, no time to debate; a chicken pot pie is in the oven and calling my name.