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.