The Real American Pie

“The Real American Pie” won the James Beard Foundation Award for best newspaper feature writing for Cliff Doerksen. The thorough researched and impeccably written ode to mince pie, which long before Apple Pie was considered the official pie of America, is a long read, but worth it if you love the intersection of food and history.

Imagine, by way of analogy, that Americans abruptly and collectively lost their taste for cheeseburgers. Imagine the cheeseburger demoted to the same rank as eggnog, ritually consumed only on, say, July 4th. Suppose furthermore that the vestigial cheeseburgers served on America’s birthday were prepared without meat. Now suppose that a condition of cultural amnesia set in such that we all forgot, within the space of a decade or so, that cheeseburgers had ever been considered the iconic centerpiece of our nation’s diet.

I can’t shake the feeling that the abrupt fall of mince signaled some profound but undiagnosed shift in American culture, some seismic rearrangement of who we are—since we are, after all, what we eat.

I promise to keep researching (and baking) until I figure it out or die trying. Until then, I leave you with this thought from the editorial page of the Montpelier Argus and Patriot for March 10, 1880: “Mince pie, like Masonry, arouses curiosity from the mystery attaching to it. Its popularity shall never wane until faith is lost in sight.”

Sadly, Cliff Doerksen, who died last week at the age of forty-seven, won’t be around to keep researching and baking mince pies.  [via clusterflock]

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