Happy National Pie Day

Today is National Pie Day, according to the American Pie Council, one of few holidays I can wholeheartedly endorse. Having devoted a goodly portion of my life (and waistline) to the pursuit of transcendent pies, I have some strong opinions on the subject. Today seems like the right time to given them free rein.

  • A proper pie contains fruit. A crusted pastry with chocolate or coffee beans or bourbon inside is tasty, but it is not pie. Instant pudding with a bouffant of instant whipped cream-substitute is not a pie. Custard is not a pie. It's a custard.
  • Not all fruits are appropriate for pie-making. Four stand out as perfect for the marriage of fruit and crust: apples, peaches, cherries, and the blackberry family, including rasp and red rasp. Others that serve to a lesser degree include the banana, key lime, lemon and raisins. Fruits that should not be used in pies include grape (I once ordered grape pie in a restaurant, and after taking one regrettable bite, shoved it aside. My waitress asked me what I thought of it, and when I told her it didn't work for me, she replied that she'd baked it, but didn't like it either), pineapple, corn, and tomato.
  • While technically a fruit, the pumpkin is usually thought of as a vegetable. Either way, it and the sweet potato/yam, make very acceptable pies.
  • Far too many pies are made of 90% goo, the artificially flavored and colored Vaseline-textured stuff that comes in 55-gallon barrels and is dispensed with a grease gun. Sadly, this protoplasm is commonly used in Amish cooking for outside sales.
  • For the best crust, bakers need to get over their fear of cholesterol and use lard instead of shortening. You won't believe the difference.
  • Great pies usually lurk in restaurants and diners that are locally owned, not in chain restaurants and the frozen food section of your grocery. I once asked the owner of a small-town diner just who had cooked the great piece of pie I had consumed, and he pointed across the street to a two-story frame house where a widow baked them fresh daily.

In honor of National Pie Day, I'm heading out on a surveillance mission. I suggest you do the same. And report back, please.
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