Friday, July 6, 2012

In defense of pie

Posted By on 07.06.12 at 02:46 PM

DanaK-WaterPenny.jpg
  • DanaK-WaterPenny
Slate gets a lot of mileage out of its insistently contrarian editorial approach, and that's fine—it's fine, OK?—but there is a bridge too far, and that bridge is made of pie, which the publication has chosen to blaspheme twice this week. First L.V. Anderson complained about the double-crust pie, insisting, in re: the top crust, that "pie crust is not an exciting pastry" and should not be doubled when preparing a pie.

This is incorrect.

Anderson, who I'm sure is a lovely person (and whose You're Doing It Wrong column is usually enjoyable, even agreeable), goes off the rails here, proposing a streusel topping, which is appropriate in certain situations but not every one. Some pies call for streusel because it's most fitting; some pies are made by bakers incapable of producing a sufficiently delicious crust—not that I'm saying L.V. Anderson would produce a substandard crust—and they call for streusel because it's the best alternative. But let's don't get carried away. Pie crust is an elemental pastry, and a well-made one is a wholly appropriate—sometimes even a copacetic—way to top a pie. A world in which all apple pie is covered with streusel—which, face it, has a tendency toward oversweetness—is a bleak, treacly world indeed.

Then on the Fourth, Slate reprinted—reprinted!—an attack on pie (refuted, it should be noted, by clever L.V. Anderson, in the aforementioned piece) by some guy named Nathan Heller, who begins his piece with a hypothetical anecdote:

You're sitting at a large picnic in early summer—plastic forks, burgers, corn in your teeth—when someone leaves the table and returns with a large pan. "I brought a pie," he says, setting it down in front of you. A spatula emerges. People coo. This is the start of an unpleasant afternoon.

You know where this is going: the pie's bad. So sure! Whatever. This comes back to the question of aptitude: a lot of the pie out there—even roadside pie, which you want so badly to romanticize—is wanting. The crust is too thick, the filling gloppy, etc. But this is like hiring a mechanic to give you a manicure and then rejecting the whole cosmetic enterprise when the results are ugly. You need the right guy for the right job. (Heller also seems to think that fruit pie is the only kind there is.) He goes on to say, I don’t know, something—history?—but it’s probably not worth reading, as the premise is total bullshit.

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