In Defense of Pie
Nathan Heller needs to shut his piehole. Yes, he does.
He starts with an historical view of pie, essentially as a delivery device for nutrition, with a tough crust hiding tender meats. He makes much of the fact that pies used to be called coffins--ha ha, where food goes to die, how amusing! The history is true, and pie crust used to be inedible--five hundred years ago. Heller appears to believe that pie is incapable of shedding all the vestiges of its ignominious past, that because it was born out of necessity, that it cannot slough off its original gastronomic sin.
|Flickr user 9229859@N02|
|As American as...|
Heller has a problem with the ratio of filling to crust, preferring the leaner profiles of tarts. While I, Francophile that I am, love a fruit tart--or better still, a tart with a thin layer of frangipane hiding under a layer of cherries--a well-baked pie will not collapse, nor will it leak filling. A well-made pie will hold its shape, and I suspect that a great number of the hot pie disasters Heller references in his second paragraph are due to the fact that pie shouldn't be served until it's reached room temperature. It has to have time for the gel to set. No matter how carefully a baker follows the instructions for a great pie, if he or she cuts into it before the pie has cooled, it will leak everywhere and collapse.
|Flickr user elkit|
|Shaker lemon pie|
The current ascendancy of pie means, at least at first, improvements to the genre. It happened with cupcakes, which for many years languished in that awful intersection of boxed cake mix and hydrogenated, super-sweetened, packaged frosting. When those nostalgic for class mother visits opened cupcake shops, they made improvements to the cupcake. (It got out of hand, of course, and some cupcakes are still little better than the industrial, dry badness that is Betty Crocker cake mix.)