Last night PBS had one heck of a show called “A Few Good Pie Places.” After the show ended around 9 p.m. I wanted to get up and bake a pie. Pies, pies, pies—all sorts of pies, and pie stories. One place in Minnesota has an annual “Pie Day,” where thousands of people show up—a lot of them bringing their homemade pies. Some of these pies are entered into pie contests, pies made by kids, by teenagers, and by “older folks. The winner was a 16-year old girl who made a cherry pie with lattice work crust. Then the pie auction began where the bidding went up to $1300—for a pie.
Does Amarillo need a good, “Just Pies” place? Or is eating pie too fattening for today’s diets? Take a look at any cookbook under “pies” and you will find pies of every sort, starting with “A”, apple pie, angel pie, black bottom pie, chocolate pie, lemon pie, pecan pie, peach pie, sweet potato pie, walnut pie. And just why do we call it a pie anyway? One online resource says that the word “pie” may be derived from the word “pica” meaning magpie, a bird with the habit of collecting a lot of odd things for a nest. A pie requires a crust of some type on the bottom and sometimes on the top. So, what’s the difference between a pie and a cobbler, a peach pie and a peach cobbler? Well, a cobbler usually has fruit and some type of biscuit dough inside, typically not a crust on the bottom but a crust on top.
The best pie I ever ate? My Aunt Ora’s Mincemeat Pie. Last time I had one was in 1966—been longing for one ever since. I have a friend in Dallas who makes a delicious Millionaire Pie. I’ve tried to duplicate her recipe but mine just don’t turn out right. I’ve had good Rhubarb Pie. Sweet Potato Pie is the “Pie of the South” and definitely the “Pie of Black Folks.” Black folks typically don’t eat Pumpkin Pie. The PBS show featured a black family that now owns a pie shop somewhere down south. The shop was once a filling station and grocery store. One daughter said that God showed her a vision of reopening the old store as a pie place. She cannot bake enough pies to keep up with customers. Their mother still visits the pie shop and occasionally they all harmonize a song together. The mother sang a song about “Will you look for me in heaven.” A white guy sitting next to her eating a big hunk of pie said, “Yes, if you have a pie in your hand.”
According to the PBS show, making and eating pie is more about just eating a slice of pie. Pie eating has deep social and cultural significance. You are supposed to sit down and eat pie—not eat it standing up. So eating pie is a way of fostering good conversation, for sharing, and good company. Children nowadays need to sit down and eat pie with the family instead of text messaging. Someone on the national scene who wears a baseball cap to hide his funny hair needs to eat more “humble pie.” Anyone who says “I read a magazine because my face is on the cover” need to eat a pie called, “reality check pie.”
Some folks say the best part of a pie is the crust. If you cannot make a good crust you cannot make a good pie. A good crust requires some lard or Crisco. A good crust meets your mouth first, before you get to the filling. Ever heard of peanut butter pie? One of the entries in the Minnesota Pie Day contest was just this—made by an 8 year old. Years ago poor people made pies from all sorts of ingredients. Ever heard of a tomato pie? How about a vinegar pie? Vinegar pie was also called a “po man’s apple pie.” I’ve had vinegar pie, even made one. You start with apple cider vinegar, add water, then sugar and seasonings such as nutmeg and cinnamon, add vanilla flavor, a pinch of salt, butter, then drop in small bits of dumplings. After the dumplings are seasoned pour the whole thing in a baking dish and cover with a crust. With ice cream, or, a la mode, this is the best dessert ever.
Are folks still making pies at home? Or too much trouble? Do folks just go out and buy a “Mrs. Smith’s pie,” or some other frozen pie and call it a day? Passing on a lot of family traditions can happen in kitchens teaching kids to make pies. But who has time for this anymore? I might just open a pie shop in Amarillo—somewhere on North Hughes.
Copyright 2015 – L. Arthalia Cravin. All rights Reserved. No part of this commentary may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.