The Case Against Pie From a Rabid Heathen

Who knew that pie, of all things, has turned slate.com into a frothing werewolf of hate.

The pie, because it is a pie, does not so much “slice” as volcanically erupt under the pressure of the knife, oozing its livid fluid everywhere; your own piece, when it comes, is a miniature apocalypse of broken pastry parts and heat-blitzed fruit. You demur, mumbling about having eaten too much cornbread. Someone’s aging, wild-eyed mother stares you down. “It’s pie,” she says. You are handed a fork. You start to peck at a morsel of fruit. Your plate is promptly whisked away again: Because it’s hot outside, you’re told, you’re supposed to enjoy your dessert “a la mode.” The pie is warm; the ice cream melts at once. You contemplate what now looks like a slice of jammy toast that has been soaked in milk for half a day and masticated by a dog. You work your fork into the only structure still intact, the woody, crenulated crust, beating and twisting this bumper of dough against each leverageable surface on your plate, trying to break it up. Your fork loses a prong. Abandoning all hope, you finally drive your broken-fork-with-giant-crust-piece through the mire of sloppy dough and heft the entire, dripping mass into your mouth. “Mmm,” someone says. “Isn’t it so great to have pie?”

America, let’s be honest on this point: It is not so great to have pie.

Isn’t hating on pie akin to hating on puppies? C’mon Slate! What did pie every do to you? It’s not like pie shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die!

The post is one of provocation, to be sure. The main case against pie, as far as I can tell, is that “Its past is unremarkable and un-American” and that sometimes, it can be poorly made. On the first points, guilty as charged. Cooking anything in a pastry shell can be prosaic, especially when it comes to encasing mutton. That the author seems surprised that sweetened fruits inside of pastry dough is a relatively new concoction ( he notes that “Pie culture grew with the advent of modern pastry dough during the 16th century, at which point cooks in more ambitious kitchens started to experiment with sweeter fillings”), sounds surprising until one recognizes that the key ingredient in sweetened pie (sugar) didn’t really grow in popularity in Britain until the 1500′s. The story of sugar in pies isn’t a story of innovation, it’s one of trade. People weren’t putting sugar in pies because they didn’t like the taste. They weren’t’ putting sugar in pies because they didn’t have sugar.

As far as the author’s personal preference is concerned, he’s entitled to it. But I do wonder where he’s getting his pies. Because the first thing a quality pie-maker works upon is their crust, and second, the quality of the filling. A good pie doesn’t turn fruit into “mush”. Such pies deserve disdain. A good pie seeks to maintain the best aspects of the filling.

But of all of confusion of his post, this is the bit that throws me off my horse:

Who would labor over flaky pastry crust that’s destined to get soaked before it’s ever tasted? Unlike the tart, which sits low and topless in a shallow pan with a svelte layer of topping, pie requires a hefty piece of bakeware with outward-sloping sides, practically dooming the pastry to collapse. And unlike a torte—a short and modest cake combining fruit and nuts in balanced proportions—most modern pies rely on giant reservoirs of loose filling or inches of piled custard and whipped cream. A slice of strawberry tart with coffee is the perfect overture to a postprandial drink, a late conversation, or a night of love.

Isn’t a tart little more than a pie done in miniature? Isn’t a tart little more than a tiny-pie missing the top crust? Isn’t the tart…

….oh wait. Hold on. This just in from Slate –

They just found out that the great American past time of eating hot dogs actually is actually a German tradition. More on this breaking story at Slate as it unfurls.