The title of this post comes from a famous—and probably apocryphal—anecdote about the Duke of Edinburgh and pie. It’s on a page of pie quotes hosted by the subject of this post: the Hoosier Mama Pie Company in my own town of Chicago.
There is a story about the Duke of Edinburough [sic], the Queen’s husband, visiting a small town in northern Canada. During the royal visit he had lunch at the local diner. He was accompanied by his entourage and members of the local and national press who crowded into the adjacent booths and tables. It is easy to imagine the attention lavished on a British Monarch dining at the local establishment. Of course all eyes were on the royal booth when the restaurant’s proprietress came to the table to clear the plates and while gently lifting it from his plate, smiled warmly, and advised “Keep your fork Duke, there’s pie.”
True or not, pie is sublime. And when uppity furriners claim that America has made no contribution to world cuisine, I reply with a withering one-word retort: “pie”. (If asked for two, I’d add “barbecue”.) Filled with applies, cherries, pecans, chocolate cream, lemon meringue, key lime custard, or—my favorite—strawberries, and topped with ice cream or whipped cream, or even desnuda, pie is surely one of the gustatory glories of the world.
American pie is gutsy, unlike the tasty but insubstantial tartes of France. No other country has anything like it, save for the savory pies of Britain. Even our northern neighbor, Canada, has debased the genre, producing the odious flipper pie, made with seal flippers (one of these disgusting foodstuffs appears in the movie of the Annie Proulx book, The Shipping News).
So yesterday, when my friend Miranda Hale, Gender Traitor and Known Enemy of the Catholic Church, had a birthday, she asked for pie rather than cake. A wise decision! Sadly, her parents got her a store-bought peach pie, which by all accounts was tasty, but rather sad compared to what I’m about to describe:
But merely hearing about pie made me salivate. So, when I went to the western store on Chicago Avenue this morning to get new heel caps put on some cowboy boots, I realized that the Hoosier Mama pie company was only a block away. The place has been open for only a few years, but is already a legend among Chicago food cognoscenti. All the pies are handmade, containing only the finest ingredients, and assembled by a dedicated team of women. The store recently received a “great neighborhood restaurant award” from the most discriminating of Chicago food websites, the LTH Forum.
Their pies are not cheap (they run about $20 per pie, or $4/slice), but are very highly reputed. So reputed, in fact, that when I stopped by their small storefront shortly after 9 a.m., there were people already lined up for whole pies, and others sitting at the few tables nomming pie and coffee for breakfast (there are few better breakfasts, by the way, than a piece of pie and a cup of coffee). Note the dog on the sidewalk, who clearly wants pie. . .
A small sample of their offerings was on display in front, and the listing of all available pies on a blackboard hanging from the ceiling (as always, click to enlarge):
But an even tastier display comprises the racks of pies cooling behind the counter.
Note that these pies look handcrafted, and they are. This is, I believe, one of the owners (I can’t recall her name), making the next batch:
What to buy? I didn’t want to make a pig of myself, but I did want to try more than one item. I settled on two slices: a Hoosier sugar cream pie and a caramel cream with banana (recommended by the cashier). Sugar cream pie, a Midwestern speciality, is the essence of simplicity, for the filling contains only sugar, cream, and butter. You’d think it would be cloying, but it’s not—it’s sublime, rich and creamy with a slight butterscotch/crème brûlée tang. It would make the perfect breakfast pie.
When I ordered my pies, the server simply took two whole pies from the rack and cut my slices out of them. Here she is with the sugar cream:
Here’s my haul.
I’ve already nommed the sugar cream pie, which was fantastic, and I’m saving the other for tomorrow (I didn’t remove it from its container as it seemed rather fragile).
What’s your favorite pie? Along with strawberry (a rare find), I love good pecan pie (with the nuts throughout the filling, not just as a chintzy layer on top), cherry pie, blueberry pie, Key lime pie (but only if made with genuine Key limes), sour cream-raisin pie, and pear pie with cream cheese. Whatever you like, be sure to