Friday, November 18, 2011

Pie in the sky

Pie in the sky, or on the corner in your hipster hood.  The timeless art of pie baking, like all things homespun, homemade and handed down, is being revived and refashioned in kitchens across the country.


In New York you can find the Elsen sisters serving up their grandmother's pies with new flavor twists; their shop, Four & Twenty Blackbirds, offers standard fruit pies but also salted caramel apple, bourbon pear, salty honey, and black bottom oatmeal. Looks like their take on pie baking has been well received; the website emphatically states they've been fully booked for Thanksgiving, and kindly requests customers to respect a two-pie-per-person limit. A slice of pie is a piece of heaven, it's true, but get greedy and the flavor you end up with tastes more like humble.

Ok, that was bad. The idioms stop now, I promise.

In Chicago, the Bang Bang Pie Truck has decided to park its wheels in Logan Square permanently. Married couple Dave and Megan Miller only began serving slices in July, but have already found a willing enough pie lovin' population here to set up shop. Similar to the Elsen sisters, Megan adapted her pies - grapefruit curd and plum brûlée are two on the menu - from her great-grandmother's recipes. The restaurant won't be like dining at Grandma's house though; the duo plans to lend a vintage circus theme to their restaurant's decor, centered around a bearded lady named Bang Bang, of course.

Though it seems trendy now, pie lore goes back quite a ways. Pies are often associated with American culture, but the very first pies are believed to have risen in ancient Greece. Pie bakers of old filled their crusts with a variety of stuffings, ranging from duck, to magpie pigeon, to mussels and seafood. Bound and sealed in pastry, pies made good sense - food was preserved and saved from spoiling in a tasty, flaky package.

Pie also connects us to a more personal lifeline. Who doesn't have a favorite flavor, usually cooked special for us by a mother, an aunt or a grandmother? Like the pie entrepreneurs above, I've taken two pie baking lessons with my own grandmother and let me tell you; it's hard. I won't be advertising my creations any time soon. But I will keep working on them. Starting with trying to roll out the dough.


What's clear is that pie is here to stay, despite evolution or any competition from cake. What's also clear is that I'm hungry. Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

Photos taken from: 
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/21/dining/21pies.html
http://www.dailycandy.com/chicago/article/109344/Bang-Bang-Pie-Coffee-Food-Trucks

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