We're Gonna Need More Pie

Sharon December 18th, 2008

Yup, another rerun, but this is one of my all-time favorite posts. I thought about editing the parts that reflect badly on me, but those are the funniest bits, as usual, so I just left them in.  I had so much fun writing this – and Edson helpfully points out that Obama, whatever his limitations, is clearly on the pie platform too – he’s a big fan.  So that can only be good ;-) .

The other day I got embroiled on a newsgroup in one of those endless discussions/debates/headbangings about what the best approach to greening the planet is. Of course, all of you know that my defining characteristics are my reasonableness, aversion to confrontation and sensitivity, so my role here was to calm the hot tempers and settle the differences of others, which I do from my sheer love of humanity. I provided a calm and rational perspective that I know helped settle everything right down, because that’s just the kind of healing, caring person I am.

Ok, just on the off chance that anyone involved in that group says otherwise, I want ask you upfront, who will you believe – them or me? After all, the people saying I was fanning the flames of this stupid umm…integral argument are nothing more than two or three hundred ordinary voices, where as I am a professional idio…author. I daily produce hundreds of words that are pulled randomly out of my a…er…finely crafted and honed for maximum effect. Sometimes the words even make sentences. Once in a while even grammatical sentences. These words are read by as many as eight or nine people around the world every single day. So you can certainly imagine that my ravings…um wisdom should outrank the sworn testimony of several hundred people.

So you’ll be proud to know that I, of course, natural leader that I am, did come up with a healing solution, something that we could come together on, a real commitment to change, a possible solution to the profound difficulties wrought upon us by the Great Change that comes sweeping over the (ok, stupid metaphor deleted)… But I did have an idea.

The idea was pie. And my position is that I’m for it. I know this is just the kind of hard-edged, radical position taking that you can expect on this blog, the reason you know you can turn here first to hear opinions that are beholden to no one…except the guy up the road with the cherry trees, who I can’t afford to piss off if I want pie. But this kind of risky political statement in favor of pie is just the sort of thing I know you’ll wish to support by donating a large portion of your salary to keep me going. Just click on the button below that says “big heaping wads of cash.”

I’m in favor of pie. I mean, what could be better than pie? It is commonly associated with good, noble things like motherhood, America, light bondage and domination, clowns and the federal reserve, so how could we not be for pie? In fact, who isn’t for pie? Well…

I have to tell you the ugly truth. There are powerful anti-pie interests in our government, and people working night and day to restrict your pie access. But we here at Casaubons book (Who is “we” you ask in puzzlement? Well, Sharon has obviously gone off the deep end writing her book, as you can tell from this post, so mostly the voices in her head. But they sometimes wear cool hats, and one of them is named “Leo.”) are committed to bringing you the truth about pie access and other equally crucial issues, like socks and beer.

It occurred to me, as I was healing the rift in this newsgroup brought on by unnamed troublemakers not named Sharon, that pie can do a great deal to heal our environmental crisis. For example, today’s climate change and peak oil news was particularly awful. There’s the coal, the war, the monks in Burma. There’s the fact that even if we halved our emissions, global warming will keep going for 600 years http://www.planetark.org/dailynewsstory.cfm/newsid/44719/story.htm . There’s the mass extinctions. The fact that one of the few bits of environmental good news, the reforestation of the east is threatened by us: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/07/nyregion/nyregionspecial2/07rCOVER.html?_r=1&ref=nyregionspecial2&pagewanted=all&oref=slogin And then there’s the financial news…

All in all, I think the only possible reaction (other than hysterical weeping) to all this bad news on a cold, snowy afternoon is to put on fuzzy pajamas, bunny slippers and eat half a pie. Or to drink a lot of local beer, I guess. Heck, you could drink beer and eat pie together.

Yes, I know that’s pathological of me, but sometimes a retreat into pathology is rather comforting. I doubt I’m the only person who has ever responded to the bad news about our environment by thinking “apple or pumpkin?” The reality is whether we believe in stockpiling ammo or creating sustainable ecovillages, the need to derive comfort where we can is our common ground.

Pie can bring us together. And that unifying power isn’t limited to the peak oil movement – pie can cross religious, cultural and national boundaries. While there may be deep cultural divisions between those who believe that you should make your sweetened orange vegetable pies with sweet potatoes and those who vote for pumpkin, I believe these barriers can be crossed, if only we’ll just take a piece of each with a lot of whipped cream.

Pie can be a powerful political motivator as well. Right now, money tends to be the most powerful tool in politics, but let us not underestimate the influence of pie. Pies in the face are a powerful tool of political resistance in Europe. I’ve heard rumors that Bill Clinton sent the Haitians back because the republicans offered him all the blueberry pies he wanted. Dick Cheney regularly sits around nude, plotting his attacks on Middle Eastern countries while eating entire mince pies.   

This kind of inside information isn’t easy to come by – the author had to send several pies to congressional aides. Fortunately, they are sleep deprived, wired on coffee and often morally bankrupt so bribing them with pie is very easy.

But pie is also essentially, deeply democratic. Pie is an essential ingredient in town-meeting style democracy in many New England states, along with baked beans. And pie is about democracy – fundamentally, pie (and pasties, empanadas, dumplings, wontons and all the other pie relatives) are about stretching high value foods to share with everyone. If you have six apples and ten guests, someone gets screwed, unless you put them between two crusts with some spices and call it pie – everyone gets a piece of sweet apple, everyone gets some crust. Pies are a way of getting maximum enjoyment from high-value foods. Meat, fruit, spices – these things are special. But they can be enjoyed regularly if carefully combined with filling starches. They are about democracy, frugality, comfort and family.

And pies are things that you have to produce either for yourself or in your locality. The truth is that frozen pie crust tastes awful, and that Sara Lee pies taste like corn syrup, which is what they are mostly made from. Real pie – good pie comes either out of your kitchen or a local bakery or diner where they make it fresh every single day from real ingredients. Pies are part of a whole lifestyle – if you want to eat pie, you have to cook, or you have to have a little Mom and Pop bakery. And those things are democratic too – as opposed to corporatist.

Sure, you say, but if I eat too much pie, I’ll get fat. And lord knows, that’s a real possibility. But here’s the thing. How many of you have ever met a really fat Amishman? I haven’t. And they eat pie more or less constantly, or so my Amish neighbors tell me.

Pie can power a human-powered lifestyle in the way that junky processed crap can’t. Certainly the Amish cookbooks I’ve seen are filled with pies. And back when dessert (or breakfast in New England) was routinely pie, people were a lot thinner. One might argue that pie isn’t what makes you fat – it is not living the pie lifestyle. Because the pie lifestyle means picking berries or walking to the bakery. It means eating pie as a treat, and as the place where you put your special festival foods that you don’t have all the time, while most of you meals are simple.

Instead, for most Americans, breakfasts is false pie - poptarts, which despite a plastic resemblance are not pies at all – because they aren’t actually food. The poptart lifestyle makes you fat, the pie lifestyle makes you thin, or thinner.

Pie makes you thin. It brings about democracy. It brings about agrarian or relocalized societies and economies. It provides comfort, crossing political lines. People talk about oil as the “master resource” but perhaps we need to start reconsidering the power of pie to create a sustainable, human powered economy. Pie-centered societies, ones that provide a chicken in every pot pie, are what we’re striving for. We can all consume less, and still have an evenly distributed piece of the pie.

Which is why I must say to you with a heavy heart – we are facing peak pie. Corporate interventions, and the “better than homemade” slogan has resulted in a US population that mostly doesn’t know how to cook anymore. Millions of people think that pumpkin comes from a can. Farmers are still going out of business at an appalling rate. The majority of our pie ingredients are contaminated by pesticides. Our ability to provide for our pie needs is deeply threatened. We are facing the final destruction of the pie lifestyle – and the end of the last remnents of our democracy.

So what can we do about it? How can we fight back for the pie lifestyle, for Mom, Teddy Bears and Apple (or Peach) pie? The only way to deal with this depletion crisis is to start living the pie lifestyle. Bake a pie today from locally grown ingredients. Eat a pie today, and use it to fuel human powered activity – dump your leaf blower and get out a rake, get rid of the power mower and bring out the push mower, lose the chainsaw and get the bucksaw down.

Make a pie and give it to a neighbor. Give out the recipe. Get together and make pies for elderly shut ins or the school bake sale or to buy solar lighting for the neighborhood watch. Throw a pie at a warmonger – we’ll have a bake sale to raise your bail. Point to the coal plant builders and the energy wasters and tell people – they are against pie! Start “Pie Eating Veterans for the Truth” and tar polluters and heavy emitters with the scorned label “pie haters.” Don’t forget to mention that they don’t like mothers, babies or kittens either. Have a town meeting and hand out pie. Give out pie at the voting booths, to hungry people in the park, to the shelter and soup kitchen. Try pies from other places, other lands – and send the money you would have spent on poptarts to good causes. When the world seems to suck, eat pie, and use that energy to get back on your feet and fight again.

Fight now, for motherhood, justice and apple pie!



21 Responses to “We're Gonna Need More Pie”

  1. Susan in NJ says:

    Okay, I can’t resist applying the bad logic usually used by defense attorneys representing nefarious corporate evildoers to ruminate on the seeming equation of motherhood with light bondage and domination. As for Leo, have you seen the movie of that name?
    (But I am a fan of pie).

  2. Cassandra says:

    I support pie!

    Haha! That was awesome. As a new reader, I appreciate the re-runs. Thanks for sharing. :)

  3. virginia says:

    Aren’t pies perfect because they are round, like many other good and useful things in our world? And what’s the area of a circle. Why, it is pie r squared, intelligent design.

    Can anyone share a (Crisco-less) pie crust? Oh, me! I can! Have a tart:

    1 cup flour/ 8T butter/ 3T cold water. Cut butter into flour with 2 knives. When it looks like fine grains, mix in the water with a fork. Knead briefly and shape into a ball. Roll out into a circle and fit into a 10″ quiche pan. Sides should be less than 1″ tall. Then you can arrange thinly sliced apples in an overlapping circular pattern, sprinkle them with sugar, and bake at 350 for 30 min. Tastes v. good with melted apricot jelly brushed on top.

  4. I dunno, Leo. Pies sure don’t spur me to cooperation, charity, peace, love, and understanding. Pie tends to make me hunch over it protectively, menacing any approaching hands with a sharp-tined fork in one fist, while the other fist shovels perfect flakes of crispy crust and gooey filling into my gob. I’d say if you’re looking for a dessert that will inspire us all to raise each other up and share the bounty, fruitcake is the shiznitz.

  5. homebrewlibrarian says:

    It might be a rerun but it’s just as hilarious (and scarily relevant) as the first time through.

    Makes me want to make pie – NOW (except I’m at work which is not in food service).

    During my brief sojourn in Wisconsin, I saw up close and personal the power of pie. During the summer in my little town, the Dual (or Tri) County band would play free concerts on the steps of the library every Thursday evening. While they were cheerily playing patriotic music, some local organization would be handling pie. Three eight foot long tables covered in slices of every imaginable type of pie (9/10 of which were homemade). And for $.50 extra, you could get a scoop of vanilla ice cream to go with it. It was a time to visit with neighbors and community members, listen to the music and enjoy some pie. People mostly showed up for the pie but stayed for the music. Talk about community building!

    Pie socials are huge in the Midwest but I think it needs to go nationwide. Having a community forum? Bring pie. Neighborhood watch patrol meeting? Bring pie. The Girl Scouts/Boy Scouts are having a clean-the-park day? Bring pie. And if you really want consensus, make sure to bring along the vanilla ice cream.

    Be pro-pie and share the love!

    Kerri in AK

  6. Shelley says:

    Like the others said, as new reader, I appreciate the re-runs!

    And I use lard in my pie crusts….ack, choke….I think that might NOT bring cholesterol watching folks together. I probably shouldn’t tell. But I hear it makes the best pie crust :)

  7. risa b says:

    Pie are not square. Pie are round Cornbread are square. :>

  8. e4 says:

    Just for the record, here’s Obama pushing Sharon’s Pie Platform on the campaign trail:

  9. Mary Campbell says:

    For a long time pie seemed an outdated dietary relic. It makes lard palatable, and none of us can afford that much fat. People used to need it. My grandmother baked ten pies a day for the horse-drawn threshing crew. Despite three or four wedges a day, my grandpa lost 25-30 of his 210 pounds during the weeks of threshing. I cite this in refusing to bake my professor more than one pie per month–and we have to have company to eat it.
    But if we’re going to be walking and spading and weeding we’ll go back to needing way more calories. Pie! I was always a pumpkin person, and was shocked to flip to apple in my early fifties.

  10. April says:

    I was with you until “pie makes you thin”… because something as complicated and variable as human body composition will not necessarily react to cutting out corn syrup and physically working more by magically shedding pounds until you emerge from your fat chrysalis of modern living into old-fashioned slenderness. I mean, yes, you will get healthier; and sure, for some people changing shape like that is definitely possible, but it’s not going to be for everyone.

    With this caveat, I heartily support the healthy benefits of a pie-based economy and lifestyle!

    Aaaand I’m off to write down these pie crust recipes…

  11. Boysmom says:

    Kate, your problem is caused by a scarcity of pie. We must have pies in plenty. Then we will have world peace. Or at least household peace. If you had ten pies you would not be inclined to horde pie. At least, not after you’d eaten a peice of each!

    I am making peach tonight. Which is a funny coincidence with Sharon’s repost–I pulled the peaches out of the deep freeze last night.

  12. Jill says:

    I admit, the article motivated me. It made me want to get involved, be more active. And it made me a little hungry.

  13. Jenn says:

    As the descendent of a long line of pie eaters and pie lovers, I can absolutely, completely, one hundred per cent get behind this lifestyle. Long live pie!

  14. Pangolin says:

    A bit over a year ago wheat decided it hated me or vice versa but I did not give up pie. Oh, no. Instead I noted that a cup of rice flour or 3/4 cup tapioca flour in a standard pumpkin pie recipe made it stand up. The completed custard poured into a hot, greased cast-iron pan makes a perfect crustless pie and the breakfast of cham-peons.

    The secret to pie was that it came in sweet and savory. A Cornish pasty will fill you up, an empenada will spice you up and a pirogi will grease you up.

    Dang, now I’m up with insomnia and I have to go to my kitchen and find some pie makings. I believe I have a large turkish squash that can be convinced to warm up my kitchen with the help of the oven timer. Wake up to turkey-turkish squash tamale pie. Oh yeah.

    If you have a sister who wants to move to California I’m single……. and hungry.

  15. Sharon says:

    Shelley, Eric and I once bought a dried berry pie from an Amish lady. We were picnicking, and we had a piece. Our reaction – wow, this is the best crust I’ve ever tasted! We ate more. Woah, this is just head and shoulders above any crust I’ve ever made – I wonder if she’d tell us how to do it. So we drive back to the lovely Amish woman, tell her that I’ve been trying all my life to make a piecrust like hers, and will she help me. She’s very kind, and she agrees. Then the recipe starts…first, take lard….

    Ooops. Not kosher. No wonder we’ve never had one that good ;-) .


  16. [...] great article on what “We’re gonna need more pie” from “Sharon Astyk’s Ruminations on an Ambiguous [...]

  17. sac says:

    I love this the first time and I love it now. Viva la (pie) revolution!

  18. [...] original Pie Platform has been reintroduced by Sharon Astyk, and I am all for it.  After all, who could possibly be [...]

  19. barbara says:

    Of course Pie is the answer! I’ve been trying to tell people that for years, and today I’ve stumbled among the adherents to my own personal philosophy. We shall overcome.

    [As for lard/crisco question, I'm still trying to clear them from my crust recipe with varying degrees of success. This weaning process is a slow "getting to know dough" not made with l/c. No point in stressing over it. Just make a lard/crisco crust once in awhile to remember how the dough should feel. Then try another recipe without them. So far the best substitute is butter as mentioned in an earlier comment, but I must quibble and note that butter crust is tart crust, not pie crust]

  20. Dependable cooking

    Great place for cast iron

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