It had to happen. With millions jumping on the Pie wagon someone was bound to loosen the wheels. Nathan Heller of Slate recently posted an article declaring about Pie, “It’s gloppy, it’s soggy, it’s un-American.” I can’t let it pass. And neither could Dave Lieberman who wrote a sterling rebuttal to Mr. Heller in his “In Defense of Pie” in the OC Weekly.
Poor Nathan Heller. He must be eating pies from cooks who aren’t on their game. But as Lieberman says in regard to runny pies, “Sometimes this happens. Move on. Don’t be bitter.” As a person who cares about cooking as craft and how it informs culture, I love pie. I guess that’s no secret. But here’s why.
Pie is about Mom and Grandma and home and love. It’s about the smells of butter and sugar and the perfume of apples and berries cooking in the oven. It’s about the spice of cinnamon and the lift of a squeezed orange, lemon or lime. It’s about fluffy meringue and whipped cream and ice cream melting against the lingering warmth of a crust. And it satiates a deep appetite of longing. Longing for a home perhaps we never had or a kind of home we want to make.
A slice of pie and a cup of Joe was the American breakfast of champions for nearly a century. Pie fed countless urban denizens of bustling American cities during the industrial revolution right up through the 1940s and 50s. In the countryside it was left on farmhouse windowsills to cool for later. In the city it was sliced, plated and tucked into little glass fronted compartments to be redeemed with a nickle.
In 1895 New Yorkers ate 22 milion pies from chicken pot-pie to huckleberry. I believe that pie is part of every American’s culinary DNA. Wherever we’re from, when we sit down to a slice of pie and a cup of coffee we are American to the core. So I lift my fork laden with Pie and stick it in your eye Nathan Heller. And Dave, thanks for such a vigorous defense!