The Virtues of Pie - Random Reasonings

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The Virtues of Pie

I’ve noticed that dessert choices on menus at fine dining restaurants rarely include pie.

You’ll find flan, crème brulee, mousse, cheesecakes and other delectables. But usually, to find a dessert menu with selections of pie, you need to be at a diner or family restaurant.

It’s the same with coffee shops that serve brownies, muffins, breakfast breads, scones, donuts, cinnamon rolls, pecan rolls and other baked pastries. Rarely do they offer pie.

January 23rd was Pie Day.

Today is Pi Day, which is a whole other thing. But one thing Pi and Pie may have in common is infinite possibilities.

Pie is possibly the most versatile of foods. It can be a main course or a dessert.

A meal of chicken pie with meat and vegetables baked in a savory gravy inside the crust is a hearty main course. Then you can top that off with a slice of apple pie for dessert.

Or do a French pie meal, beginning with a quiche for the main course. End that with a slice from an apple tatin … a French version of pie where the apples are caramelized in butter and sugar and folded in a delicate pastry to bake.

In England, the meat pie (called a pasty) has been a mainstay of ploughman’s food for centuries, made with mutton, lamb, beef, or venison. And then there’s the crossover of mince meat pie, a dessert pie made with finely shredded bits of meat with apples, fruits, spices and a bit of brandy.

Spanikopita is my favorite Greek pie when I want something savory for a main course. And that can be finished with Bougatsa, a cinnamon custard dessert pie that is so creamy and delicious.

Tamale pie, made with a corn meal crust, is a Mexican and southwestern main course. Which can then be followed for dessert with Mexican chocolate pie with chili spice drizzle.

Vegetarian and Vegan diets can include pie. An herbed vegetable pie is so good, even meat lovers won’t miss the meat.

The versatility and cultural diversity of pie are virtues that makes it the perfect food.

The history of pie dates back to ancient Greece, where the first pastry shell was made using water and flour. The ancient Romans borrowed the idea and filled their pastry shells with seafoods and meats.

A recipe for a chicken pie was discovered in a stone tablet in Egypt that dates back to 2000 BC.

In early America, pie was mostly a main course dish because the crusty tops helped to keep the meat and vegetable fillings inside fresh for a longer period of time. But by 1947, the Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking listed 65 different varieties of dessert pie.

In the U.S. the types of pies are as varied as the different parts of the country. New England is known for blueberry and maple cream pies. In Pennsylvania Dutch Country you’ll find shoo fly pie.

In the south expect pecan, sweet potato, and key lime pies. Derby pie is the favorite in Kentucky. It always includes a touch of Kentucky Bourbon and is the official pie of the Kentucky Derby. For avocado cream pie, go to California.

In Louisiana the favorite is a savory crawfish pie. Michigan grows the best pie cherries in the country, so cherry season in Michigan, mid-July to mid-August, is a great place for the perfect cherry pie.

Meringue topped pies are more popular in the heartland than in other parts of the country. Cream pies are favorites in Hawaii. Peanut butter pie tops the list of favorites in cream pies, followed by chocolate, banana cream, and coconut cream.

But the overall favorite and most popular in the U.S. is apple pie!

Everyone has a favorite pie; even a favorite pie for all the different types of pies. Sometimes our favorite pies vary with the season. It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie!

What are your favorites? Do they vary from season to season?

Pie is a great way to use fruits that were frozen or canned in the summer when fresh. There is practically no vegetable, fruit, meat, seafood, nut, or ingredient of any kind you can’t put in a pie, and that’s another virtue of pie.

And then of course there is that whole other category of pie, the most popular food in America … Pizza! What’s not to love about pie!

“You don’t have to make fancy or complicated masterpieces. Just good food from fresh ingredients.”

Julia Child

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  1. Oh, my….so many pies! My favorite desserts are pies and, yes, apple is my favorite! I am partial to my Mom’s apple pie and miss that so much. Sour cherry is another favorite and is somewhat hard to find. Most times, cherry pies are made from canned cherry pie filling but we prefer sour cherry. Yum! A local farm market (Butcher’s Farm Market in Newport, PA) makes the best cherry pie! They are sooo delicious that it isn’t worth making them myself. Always a family favorite!
    Good thing I don’t have a pie here now….or I would be ripping into it!

  2. I honestly don’t think I have a favorite. It changes with the seasons. I kind of love them all. But if I had to choose one, it would be black raspberry pie. I love black raspberries and there are so hard to find. Can only get them in seasons which is just a couple weeks in the summer. For years, living in Lancaster County, I bought fresh sour cherries at Cherry Hill Orchards and canned them. Made cherry pies all year long with them! Now I buy the canned sour cherries from Oregon Specialty Fruits. I much prefer a slice of pie over a piece of cake.

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