Thursday, April 04, 2013

Life Of Pie

One Saturday the boys came over for the day, and they accompanied Rick and me on our Saturday Drive.  By Happy Accident we ended up at our favourite pie shop, and our serendipity continued when, upon entering, we saw that they were having an Open House/Tasting of sorts.  An extremely merry and encouraging woman behind a long table full of little samples practically begged us to try each and every one, including the strudels, lady locks, and cookies. 

It was almost thrilling.

Naturally, I ate far too many, and once I had hoovered a full-sized bunny cooky, I turned to Rick.  "Now I am regretful.  Why on earth did you let me eat so many samples of pie?" I said woefully and accusingly.  "You know how I cannot eat during the day, and you know how I get when I eat too many sweets."

Jared said, "Wow, Mom.  You ate that stuff like you were stoned."

But, in my defense...pie.  So much PIE.

I know you understand.

Jared and I both love pie, so we've decided to do this post together (as in, he emails me his when he is done).  We're going to attempt to identify our Top 5 Favourite Pies, chat about each as necessary, then turn it over to you in Comments.  Jared would like to stipulate that pizza and cheesecake and Boston Creme Pie do not count.  Basically, we are talking about pie.  I think we all know what a pie is.

(When I received his part of the post, I chuckled.  When you see it, you'll know why.)

Let's do it.

Nance's Top 5 Favourite Pies

1.  Lemon Meringue
2.  Cherry
3.  Strawberry
4.  Pecan
5.  Rhubarb

1.  Lemon Meringue pie is probably my favourite pie because it was rare that I got it.  My mom made pies often, but Lemon Meringue only showed up around Easter, and then later, when my older sister Patti* asked for it.  The one drawback of this pie is the meringue.  I hate meringue.  But if you put whipped cream on a lemon pie, it's Too Much.  If you have plain lemon pie, it seems sad.  I think meringue looks pretty, so after I admire it, I just peel it off and give it to whomever likes meringue.  Lemon Meringue pie is tangy, smooth, and sunshiny. Hands down, it is The Best Pie! *perceived favourite child, and this is one reason why!

2.  Cherry pie is a classic.  It's one of the few pies that is truly wonderful with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  It's also a fairly common pie, so it's almost always available should you need A Pie Fix.  Even if you have to buy a can of Thank You cherry pie filling to bake your own when you crave pie, it's still a decent pie.  Cherry pie is happy and innocent and like a hug from a friend.

3.  Strawberry pie is so wonderful.  I can be put off by the bloody-looking ones, but I make a killer strawberry pie of my own. With a layer of cream cheese (whipped with a little bit of sugar) spread on the bottom crust and topped with my own natural glaze, that pie is a slice of summertime.  Strawberry pie, because it's made with whole berries, makes each bite a burst of flavor.  This is a pie that makes me feel like I'm being bad because it's so darn good, but somehow virtuous because look, it's really just fresh fruit!

4.  Pecan pie is sin on a plate.  It's rich, sweet, buttery, and I can't eat anywhere near a grownup-sized piece, or I feel like my teeth are on edge and my stomach is crystallizing like rock candy.  Pecan pie is always the first pie to disappear at any of our family's functions.  I made one pecan pie in my life.  It was terrific, but it contained almost no ingredients that I ever used again.  I think I still have that bottle of Karo....

5.  Rhubarb pie is something my grandma always made, along with other weird, old-timey pies like elderberry and ground cherry and something called a milk pie.  I'm crazy about rhubarb pie, with its sweet and sour taste.  Lots of people can't take rhubarb straight-up in a pie, and they insist upon mucking it up by adding strawberries.  Forget that!  I'm a rhubarb purist.  Did you know that rhubarb is also called "pie plant"?  That's all you need to know!  Save the strawberries for their own pie.

Getting full?  Save some room.  Here comes Jared.

Let's get one thing straight right now: Pie is the pinnacle of human dessert achievement. If you do not like pie, I suggest you go eat a bowl of hair, as you are a dummy and do not deserve delicious things.

Now that that is out of the way, let’s talk a little about what makes a good pie. It cannot be too wet. The crust must hold up. It must be flaky, yet firm with good flavor, and flavor that says “Look, I know that this isn’t about me. But, since something has to accompany this delicious filling, I am here. I will not disappoint you”.  The following, in order, are the greatest and best pies that one could ever eat. In order of dominance:

Jared's Top 5 Favorite Pies
1.  Pecan
2.  Cherry
3.  Lemon Meringue
4.  Strawberry Rhubarb
5.  Key Lime

1.  Pecan pie. It is basically flawless. A textural tour de force, pecan pie manages to successfully balance the “crunchy, soft, crunchy” sandwich element of pie that is tough to do with other pies. Crispy, sticky, caramel goodness on top. A rich, sugary, center, and a nice, firm crust. The only thing better than pecan pie for dessert with a cup of coffee? Pecan pie for breakfast with a cup of coffee and the Sunday newspaper on the front porch on a crisp fall day. Basically, pecan pie would be uncomfortable if it knew how I felt about it.

2.  Cherry. A good cherry pie should be a bit bitter, with a nice, sweet finish. The cherries had better not be mushy, either, or you can take that shit back, and dump it in the toilet. Because you are a pie failure. I would recommend eating a nice cherry pie slightly warmed, with a scoop of nice vanilla ice cream. And not that Vanilla Bean bullshit. Straight Vanilla will be fine. Who do you think you are, putting fancy ice cream on your pie? Get out of my face with your pretentious ice cream habits. The proper ratio of pie to ice cream should be 2.5:1. Otherwise, you’re doing it wrong and spoiling your pie.

3.  Lemon Meringue. My birthday was this past Thursday the 28th. So, on Saturday, my Grammy, Mom, Dad, Brother, Sister, and I all convened at the Dept. for a birthday dinner. It was a great time. I made my sister try a bite of the Lemon Meringue. She resisted, but as she is young and doesn’t know shit, I insisted and she obliged. She barely got it in her mouth, shook her head, and went out to spit it out in the bushes. I was appalled. The meringue was spongy, sugary. The lemon was just enough of a custard to make it feel like velvet, and I was in heaven. I ate it ice cold, holding each refreshingly lemony bite in my mouth for a spell, moving it over the fronts and backs of all of my teeth so that each one got to share the deliciousness. By the time I had swallowed a bite, I had another one loaded up. Even the gorging at the family dinner table could not have prevented me from relishing this treat. You know the very first cocktail of the weekend after a hard week at work? That “AAAHHHH” feeling? That’s how every bite felt.

4.  Bacon pie.(Kidding. But this should be a thing.) Strawberry Rhubarb. No pie better executes balance like this one. Rhubarb is tart and biting and toothsome, the strawberry soft, delicate, sweet, and delightful. Know what ruins Strawberry Rhubarb pie? Nothing. That’s what. If a big dog licked my StrawBharb pie, I wouldn’t get mad. I would applaud the dog’s good taste. (“Good for you, dog. You know what is up. But do it again, and I will take you outside and leave you there. Forever.”)Resist the urge to go a la mode with this pie. It is better by itself. It would be analogous to putting ketchup on a T-Bone. Also, if you do that, keep that secret to yourself, because it will make me hate you.
5.  Key Lime pie. It makes me feel very Floridian. But not in the ugly Conservative Republican Florida Way. In the “I am refreshed because I am eating this delicious breezy treat” kind of way. I had this for the first time EVER a couple weeks ago, and my life is forever altered. It was a brisk day that felt like early fall or very early spring in Northeast Ohio. There were pie samples at the local Pie Haven. I said “Self, go get one of those, and give it hell.” So I did just that. Wow. A little whipped cream topping sitting on the throne of green wonder greeted my tastebuds with a “hey…get ready for this shit” and then….BOOM! Key lime explosion. There is no going back. Graham cracker crust was the vehicle for this treat, and it was the perfect accompaniment. Go have one now. (Also, fuck key lime yogurt. It is crap. It does not do the Key Lime pie justice. It is thus dead to me forever.)
What are you waiting for?  Talk about your favorite pies in Comments.
cheery pie image here
talking pie image here


  1. Lemon and Key Lime, oh my, my pie!

    But you haven't really lived unless you have had Maple Custard pie. Not Tarte au Sucre, the way the Quebecois do it, with nuts, but creamy cusstard filling topped with meringue. A three egg pie. Nance, you can take off the meringue.

    Love the cartoon.

    And I would have overdosed on the samples, too.

  2. Anonymous9:24 AM

    What a glorious day you had! I love pie. Cake is good, of course-- but pie rocks.

    My favorite ones are: lemon meringue, blueberry, cherry, strawberry glace & strawberry-rhubarb. I'll eat most other ones, but I prefer those 5.

  3. I'll eat the meringue thank you! And I'm with Jared on the rhubarb - add strawberry or I will just gag (of course this could be from the years when my grandmother would make it without strawberry & then not tell me it wasn't apple. That first bite was RUDE!).

    Here are my choices:

    1. Pecan. The recipe from the karo bottle - goopy please! And I will have seconds thank you.
    2. Apple. I like mine to be a little on the sour side. Either warm with vanilla ice cream or cold just by itself.
    3. Peach. Again, not too sweet please.
    4. Sara Lee Chocolate Creme Pie. Oh my this is sin on a fork!
    5. A weight watcher friendly Snickers Pie. This is a VERY versatile pie (I've made it with pistachio & chocolate before - yum!). And even when you use the low fat/sugar versions it's really tasty. Here's a version I found on the interwebs (note: my version called for a cup of grape nuts to give it more crunch, but frankly it's just as well to leave them out so you don't break a tooth).


    1 pint (2 cups) vanilla non-fat frozen yogurt softened
    2 TB. chunky peanut butter
    1/2 pkg. (1/4 cup) sugar free dry instant vanilla pudding
    1/2 cup fat free frozen whipped topping, thawed
    lite chocolate ice cream syrup

    In large bowl, combine all ingredients. Mix well - pour into 8" pie pan. (I spray a couple quick sprays with Pam...just to make it easier to get out of the dish). Cover tightly and freeze until set.

  4. Oh, and I just noticed - my version of the pie uses a graham cracker crust...

  5. Bug--You even left a recipe for pie! Wow. Sam is a big fan of chocolate pies, but I am not. And apple pies are boring for me although I do like them. I very much appreciate a good peach pie, but they are hard to come by. For some reason, I expected you to be a peanut butter pie person.

    Ally--My sister Patti is a blueberry fan. For some reason, I have never liked them. I will eat a blueberry muffin once in a blue moon (ha ha), but that's about it. My brother is huge on blueberries for their health benefits.

    Mary G.--Oh dear heaven. I am cuckoo crazy over maple anything. That pie, sans meringue, sounds like heaven to me. YET ANOTHER REASON TO LOVE CANADA. As if I needed another reason to love Canada. Sigh.

  6. Anonymous11:02 AM

    Let them eat pie, I say!

    Peach pie! I have fresh frozen peaches in my freezer from last season. Come over soon and we'll make (and eat!) pies! No Dolly crust! :P

  7. My number one favorite is lemon meringue, closely followed by key lime. I also truly love pumpkin, but rarely make any of those, because realprof doesn't much care for them. (The secret to really great pumpkin pie, IMHO, is to use heaping, not level, measures of the spices.)

    Mainly, I fall back on apple, a favorite of both of us, (very tart Granny Smith apples, brush the unbaked top crust with cream, and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar), peach, but only if I can get fresh peaches, and blueberry--realprof's top choice, ho-hum for me.

  8. Sorry to say, but I'm just not a big fan of pie, so I have no list of favorites. In fact pastries in general (or anything with crust) are not enticing to me in any way, sweet or savory.

    Perfect dessert: real ice cream, preferably homemade, with no toppings, or creme brulee. And as much as I like ice cream , I don't care for ice cream pie. That whole piecrust thing, regardless of type, is just not for me.

    So on the plus side--more pie for the rest of you.

  9. OK, I've been thinking about it & I Have To Ask: Sister? There's a sister? Was he making one of the cats eat lemon pie?

  10. Bug beat me to it, cuz I did a double-take when I read Jared's part and the mention of a sister. Eh?! Is there a child you've been keeping in the closed for years? Did you adopt?

    I think I liked reading these descriptions almost more than eating pie. Jared is such an entertaining writer! (Wonder where he got that from?)

    I have to be extremely boring and say that apple pie is still my favorite. But the apples have to be Granny Smith, a certain thickness, say 1/4", and "al dente" when the pie is done. There is a perfect point of done-ness for the apples, and if it goes past that and creates even the slighted bit of mush, I will not eat it. The pastry has to be pretty top-notch, too. And I could eat it with vanilla ice cream, but if it's really good apple pie with an awesome flaky crust, I would almost rather savor it on its own.

    Cherry pie runs a very close second, and, of course, I'm with Jared on the mushy rule: "Take that shit back." LOL.

  11. closed = closet. (I know you forgive typos, but I hate it when the typo is a real word!)

  12. "slighted" = slightest. Holy crap. You would think I could proof-read.

  13. EVERYONE--THE "SISTER" JARED REFERS TO IS KAITLIN, WHO WE HAVE DECIDED BELONGS TO OUR FAMILY. She dated Sam, fit in with the Dept.'s general craziness so well, that we cannot let her go. Rick and I consider her the daughter we never had, and are trying to figure out how to make her a permanent fixture in our lives...well, permanently.

  14. Ortizzle--I like apple pie, but like you, my specifications are so exacting, that it's hard to find a good one. And I rarely bake pie because our local pie shop is so incredibly wonderful that really, why should I bother? Like you, I like a toothsome apple in my pie, and I don't want a lot of cinnamon in mine, either. I am thinking an awful lot about trying apple pie one more time.

    Bug--Hee hee. Marlowe, the nosy cat, did try some meringue from my plate when I wasn't looking. She is terrible about getting up on the coffee table.

    LaFF--I will gladly eat your share of all pie. And I agree with you: Crust is key. My mother makes a perfectly awful crust, to be honest. I detest it. It is hideous. It tastes like, and is the consistency of, oily flour. I always use the Pillsbury sheets of premade crust, and I get raves. Depending upon who it is, I either accept them graciously, or I laugh and say, "Thank Pillsbury!"

    fauxprof--I cannot get behind pumpkin pie, which is one of Rick's faves. It's okay, but feh, if it suddenly disappeared forever, I would not mourn the loss. Ditto apple. But if someone took away my cherry pie, that would hurt. And I'd be sad about the peach, too.

    fis4freak--Oh ugh, Mom's crust is horrifying. Seriously, though, if you have good frozen summer peaches, let's make pie. You're the one with the big life, so you call me. But not on Sat or Sun--that's Rick Time.

    Speaking of pie...PIZZA from Giovanni's. MMMmmmmmm...let's get some.

  15. I definitely love pie, I think I would choose pie over cake if I had to. But then I am a sucker for anything baked.

    I adore French Apple, (apple with a crunchy topping) pumpkin chiffon, (pumpkin filling mixed with whipped cream and well, whipped) and probably banana cream.

    Drooling has commenced.

    Probably the pies I dislike the most are cherry, rhubarb, and lemon meringue! No pie-party invitation for me from Nance shall be forthcoming!

  16. Lemon meringue is disgusting, but mainly it's the meringue that I hate. Perhaps I'll try it some time sans meringue, and see if that helps at all. My grandpa used to LOVE it, and I would make it for him for his birthday. Once I was letting it cool, and the cat jumped on the counter and ate all of the meringue. I didn't even blink, I just put new meringue on it, browned it, and gave it to poor Grandpa, who never knew.

    Remember when Laura Ingalls got married, and on her first day of married life had to cook for the wheat threshers? She made pie with pie plant, and forgot the sugar? I liked that story. The thresher who took the top crust off, put sugar on the filling, replaced the crust, and complimented her on her wisdom in allowing everyone to sweeten to their own taste. Gracious.

    I love apple pie with crunchy topping, esp if it also contains cranberries. YUM. Perfect with vanilla ice cream.

    If you're ever fortunate enough to find yourself in Ashland, OR, perhaps to see some Shakespeare in their Elizabethan theatre, do find the Ashland bakery and try the marionberry pie. It's divine.

    Peach pie is delicious, but I don't like when it gets soggy, and it's especially good when you get really sweet peaches in the summer.

    Pumpkin pie is wonderful, esp cold for breakfast the day after Thanksgiving.

    I can eat banana cream pie and chocolate cream pie to be polite, but not pecan. Sit by me, and you can have my slice.

    My grandma and her sister love strawberry pie. My Great Aunt's birthday is in strawberry season, so they make a once a year trip to the local Marie Callender's and have a slice, with both whipped cream and ice cream, with a cup of black coffee for lunch.

    Pie is so much better than cake, I can't even talk about it. I pink puffy heart pie.

  17. PS, I also use that Pillsbury pie crust. It's pretty darned good, and certainly better than mine! Do you ever watch America's Test Kitchen? They say the best pie crust is made with vodka. I'm not kidding. I'm afraid to try it, since the only time I make pie is for family functions.

  18. Anonymous8:46 AM

    First, I was terribly confused when Jared had mentioned a sister. Do I not know you as well as I thought? Is she some black sheep of the family who never gets mentioned and resides in a far away psychiatric hospital? Then I saw the comment and was a bit relieved. Still, I may pretend that your trips to the Shaw Festival are really a front for an annual pilgrimage to see The Daughter.

    Anyway, I must admit that I'm not much of a pie person. This is perhaps a function of my mother never having much pie in the house and my stepmother only getting store-bought pies from Convenient Food Mart.

    That said, I'd like to share my absolute favorite dessert recipe with you. It's a chocolate souffle that my housemate and I found on the Food Network. It's extremely rich, though, so you have to go into it ready for that. But after having that, most other chocolate just seems dull.

  19. Mikey/emengee--LOL. I love your Conspiracy Theory about our trips to Canada to visit the shadow daughter.

    CFM pies are awful. Those are not really pies. Next time you are back here in NEO, we'll make a journey to my pie shop. For Real Pie.

    I'm bookmarking the chocolate souffle. That and creme brulee are my top fave desserts. I am crazy about a good chocolate souffle. Thank you.

    Jellyj@jj--I do remember that story from Little House. Oh, those books, how I adore(d) them so! I had a similar experience. I made some gorgeous pumpkin pies, and right as I served them, I remembered--with considerable horror--that I had forgotten to add the sugar. I desperately tried to just sprinkle sugar over them and brulee them, but it didn't really work too well. Jared's very first girlfriend, who I still adore to this day, ate it anyway. She said she liked it.

    I have heard the vodka crust tip several times, but since I don't make my own, I won't ever have to use my vodka for anything but martinis.

    Your meringue story is wonderful. I will be telling it--and giving you credit--every time meringue or pies comes up. It's terrific.

    Gina--Oh, I would still invite you, since my Pie Party would probably be BYOP. LOL. We tried the crumb topping on a cherry pie once. We weren't happy. I bet it would be awesome on apple, though.

  20. Anonymous1:31 PM

    One time for a big family dinner, my stepmother bought some CFM pies, put them in her own baking dishes to heat up, and then told everyone she had baked them herself. The only problem was that one of them had been mislabeled, so as soon as someone bit into it, her cover was blown. ::sigh:: I don't understand why she'd even want to take credit for a CFM pie, but she is the World's Most Boring Person (TM).

    Let me know if you make the souffle. Especially if it's not the best you've had (because then I'd need the recipe for the better one).

    - Mikey G.


  21. Nance,

    Ah! I remember it well...The Thanksgivings when we all gathered around the groaning table to share a feast with the family and extended groups of "hangers on"who showed up the fourth Thursday of every November to eat and air their grievences and initiate some new ones to bring up next year. Wait! Was that a "run on" sentence? Oh well.

    Our pie of choice was Mince. It was pretty tasty and we all enjoyed it except that it was forbidden to be eaten on the following day which,of course, was Friday.The Catholic Church had declared that Mince Pie was Meat!

    Didn't they worry about trivial sh*t? Anything to make our lives more complicated than they already were in the midst of the greatest Depression ever known to man.

    We were told by the priest that a mince was an animal a little like an Alpine goat who lived on the side of a mountain. He had two long legs and two short ones which enabled him to stay upright on the steep terrain of the Matterhorn.

    So, all day Friday, as we licked our wounds from the war of words eminating from the cousins and Aunties,we knew we couldn't touch even a sliver of leftover turkey or stuffing, but we hoped beyond hope that my Mom would let us have a small piece of Mince Pie with our scrambled egg or tuna fish sandwich. But NO! Father said it was meat and that was that!

    Is it any wonder that an estimated 52% of elder Catholics have left the Church?

    Do you think it might have been the pie?

  22. Nancy--Mince, if it truly is Mincemeat, does contain beef, from what I understand. It all sounds terrible to me, to be honest.

    No mince pie is just another in a long line of Reasons. It wasn't my reason, but I bet it could be someone's!

    emengee--Oh, what a story! Too much. I will definitely let you know when I make the souffle, but I will say that I misspoke. It's a chocolate mousse that I am crazy for. Not souffle. But I'll give it a shot.

  23. 1. My Nana Colvin made Lemon Meringue pies with meringue so tall the pie looked like a coffee can. You could not eat them without getting meringue on your face.
    2. I feel strongly about pumpkin pie - I know most people only eat it at Thanksgiving, but around here we feel that pumpkin pie should be a year-round Thing. I'm surprised it didn't make either of your lists, but I get that not everyone feels as I do about the Glorious Berry (the pumpkin is, technically, a berry. No lie, I read it in one of the 'freaky facts' columns in a Scholastic Magazine, so you know it's true.)

  24. Ms. Caroline--Too much meringue! I've seen pies like that, the Mile Highs, some call them. I'd love it if the lemon part were that high.

    J., Gina, and fauxprof all mentioned pumpkin in their lists, so you're def. not alone. My husband is a big fan, but I just find it boring.

    If Scholastic says it is a berry, then are all forms of squash and gourds berries too? Wow. I had no idea.

  25. Chocolate Pie, Buttermilk Pie, Pecan Pie. Hard to say which fruit pie is best, but cherry is hard to turn down and apple (heated) with ice cream will make you sit up and beg. I've gained five pounds writing this post. Better go run it off. :)

  26. Rainbow Motel--Buttermilk Pie...did you ever write about this before? I have a distant memory of it, yet I've no true familiarity with it. Off to Google a recipe to see exactly what it is.

  27. Hilarious pie awesomeness! We could all get together for a pie soiree of sorts and do very well with sharing. My favorites are all different, so I'd take on the apple, pumpkin, sweet potato, blueberry and chocolate cream and leave the rest for you two. : )

  28. Lisa--I love the idea of a Pie Social. I like a good sweet potato pie, actually, but it has to be a really good one. Once, a student's mom baked me one; it was so excellent. She sent me in soul food all the time, too. Greens, cracklin' bread...mmmmm. I miss it.


Oh, thank you for joining the fray!

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