The humble pie, this week on the Bleader | Bleader

Monday, July 23, 2012

The humble pie, this week on the Bleader

Posted By on 07.23.12 at 06:54 AM

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I made this!
  • I made this! With love, etc. And butter.
When I used to make pie I spent a lot of time rolling out dough and thinking about little jokes that I thought my bosses at Hoosier Mama Pie Company should put on T-shirts: "Crimp my style," for instance. "How we roll." Et cetera—there were other, better ones, I swear. For a while my only shift was on Friday night (I worked for a couple other bakers at the time), making pie for the morning farmers' market and a few cafes that the company sold to. The rolling station, such as it was, was set away from the rest of the kitchen so I usually was there by myself, which was ideal because of WBEZ's lineup of Friday-night programming: Sound Opinions first, then This American Life. I stood there rolling dough, 40, 50, 60 shells a night, and listened. Eventually I'd drift back to the rest of the kitchen and help put fruit pies together; late at night, toward 1 and 2 AM, we'd package the pies and go home. I'd be covered in flour and something like raspberry or cherry juice, both of which look like blood. HMPC has its own storefront now; this was in Kitchen Chicago, the shared-use kitchen, which has since moved, too. It's been replaced in its old Ravenswood Manor space by a pie shop: First Slice.

This was a perfectly relaxing routine for a Friday evening, I thought, and I only have one bad memory, which is of the night I used unpasteurized eggs rather than pasteurized eggs when mixing the filling for the peanut butter pie, which had to be made with the special eggs because it wasn't cooked. Imagine the horror. I had the throw away the entire batch, minus whatever I managed to scoop into my mouth en route to the trash. It was really good peanut butter pie.

As a baker you eventually learn not to chase after every throwaway scrap of whatever you're making, but this lesson was hardest to keep in mind when it came to pie. I could always eat a leftover piece. This opportunity didn't present itself very often, fortunately or unfortunately, because a whole pie tends to be a frustratingly self-contained affair: there aren't "scraps" like there are, for instance, on the edge of a pan of brownies, or the domed top of a cake. Some of the pie by-products were unexpected: did you know, for instance, that the juice that overruns the edges of some fruit pies will congeal on the pan underneath into a sort of really delicious fruit leather? It's true. Raw pie dough is no mean treat, either.

For the nonprofessional, making pie is also an excellent way to get people to like you. At least once I've made a pie (rhubarb) when first meeting a boyfriend's parent, which I believe is a textbook way to ingratiate yourself. The baking process itself yields a certain kind of satisfaction: it's multistep, and can be time-consuming, and after all that the experience of taking a good-looking pie out of the oven is uniquely satisfying. People tend to be happy to receive a pie, too, and with some exceptions happy to eat it.

Anyway, for no reason in particular we've decided to focus on pie for this week's Variations on a Theme, our weekly blog feature. Pie, the food. Pi, the number. Pie, the chart. Pie, the genital slang. Flaming Pie, the Paul McCartney album. The possibilities are endless, really, but here's hoping we'll just stick to the first example on that list.

Then there's pie as muse—a couple pie-related songs are below. None of them are Madonna's cover of "American Pie," thank god.

Beck, "Country Pie" (Bob Dylan cover)

Patty Griffin, "Making Pies"

Harry McClintock, "The Preacher and the Slave" (aka the "Pie in the Sky" song, written by Joe Hill)

Sarah Brightman, "Pie Jesu" (RIM SHOT) (SORRY)

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