Friday morning is for pie.
Though tradition has it that there are seven deadly sins, there are some sins that are more forgivable than others. This time of year, gluttony is on my list of understandable evils.
Gluttony is a subject that produces much disagreement. British journalist Julie Burchill notes that “Gluttony and idleness are two of life’s great joys, but they are not honourable.” Another English writer, Monica Furlong, quoted a bishop who observed that gluttony “doesn’t hurt anyone else.”
The day-after-Thanksgiving morning meal is definitely the breakfast of champions if you are eating leftover pie. Instead of thinking of it as gluttonous, just call it what it is — delicious.
Pie is arguably the best part of Thanksgiving or, for that matter, any meal. I agree with Henry David Thoreau’s take when he stated, “He who distinguishes the true savor of his food can never be a glutton.”
You likely enjoyed one of these five pies on Thanksgiving or on the days after — apple, strawberry, pumpkin, cherry or blueberry pies. They are the most popular this time of year.
Though pumpkin didn’t top the list, it is the one that seems most quintessentially Thanksgiving. Approximately 50 million pumpkin pies are consumed during this week. More intriguing than the number of pies is the size of the biggest — the largest pumpkin pie ever broke records at 350 pounds. It was five feet in diameter and required 80 pounds of pumpkin, 12 dozen eggs, and six hours of cooking time.
No matter what type you created or consumed, you are not a trendsetter. Pies have been around for a very long time. They first appeared in response to the need to move and store food. The crust and outside was simply a container to hold or transport sweet or savory foods. These early pies were called coffins or coffyns.
The term pie came later. It is believed to have originated from the Latin
term ‘pica,’ describing the bird, magpie, whose habit is to collect a variety of things and put them into its nest. The genus of the magpie is Pica.
Early Greeks were believed to have originated pastry, which was mentioned in the plays of Aristophanes. Romans had an early printed recipe for a rye-crusted goat cheese and honey pie in the 14th century. Pies have quickly and completely taken hold of our imagination and affection.
Thus, it is not a surprise that many U.S. states have official state pies. Try to guess each state’s designee before reading on. Vermonters like apple, residents of Oklahoma prefer pecan, key lime is on the menu of Floridians, and Indiana folk go for the Hoosier. Though I never heard of that variety, now I know that it is a sugar cream pie. For all of us in the commonwealth, nothing other than Boston cream pie will do!
There are other unique pies. Courage pie was popular in Shakespearean England, and contained all the ingredients thought to have aphrodisiac properties. Consider shoo-fly pie, a treat from the Pennsylvania Dutch that is filled with molasses and corn syrup, a combination that clearly appealed to the fly, which led to its naming.
Somewhat more disturbing than flies on your pie was the favorite of the English wealthy class: “surprise pies,” which entertained when a live creature would pop out of the pie. Thus explaining the nursery rhyme:
Sing a song of sixpence,
A pocket full of rye.
Four and twenty blackbirds,
Baked in a pie.
When the pie was opened,
The birds began to sing;
Wasn’t that a dainty dish,
To set before the king?
Forget the fly’s favorite or the ‘peep’ show, and get back to enjoying those pie leftovers. After all, eating these delicious desserts is as American as apple pie. Don’t worry if you start your day with this sweet, or eat a few too many slices. Listen to Italo Calvino, an Italian author who knew that “in love, as in gluttony, pleasure is a matter of the utmost precision.”
Suzan Bellincampi is director of the Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary in Edgartown.