Driving back from Maine via Boston, our friends Nancy & Julie left behind a pie for us. It was a strawberry-rhubarb pie that Julie had bought, but she was ultimately disappointed. "I think the real problem with that pie was that the strawberries were frozen, and maybe the rhubarb, too," she explained. We eagerly ate a slice and were underwhelmed. The next day, we tried a second piece -- sometimes pies are better the next day, right? -- and promptly threw it in the garbage. Wasteful? Yes, but this underlines a more arresting issue: how many pies we've avoided or discarded over the years.
Julie later added, "The real fundamental problem is that this place wouldn't sell me a slice. I wouldn't normally buy a whole pie, but this was an emergency." A pie emergency, which we completely understand! Oh, the sights we've seen in markets, bakeries, and farm stands across the country: the most beautiful pies, plump with fruit, their tawny crusts anticipating the first fork tines to break the surfaces. Or the cream pies, with their mile-high meringues and myriad fillings that effortlessly entice us to indulge. Yet we've left behind so many half-eaten slices at restaurants! To wit, we've probably eaten more lousy pies than stellar ones, but we're certainly not pie snobs...or are we?
We, too, are surprised over the number of establishments that only sell whole pies. We've stopped going to our local pie shop for that reason. In their defense, they sell "individual" (six-inch) pies, but that's not the same as a slice from a normal-sized pie: the crust/filling ratio is skewed, and we prefer slices anyway. These days, it's becoming more difficult to find good pie in restaurants. Even menus that advertise "homemade pies" are often below par. Unless you have researched pie locations thoroughly beforehand, happening upon a good pie is basically luck.
Which is why we revel in the truly great pies...but shall continue to discard the lousy ones. Life is too short to waste stomach space on inferior food! (Pies pictured, from top to bottom: Wild Oats Bakery, Brunswick, ME; Hoosier Mama Pie Company, Chicago, IL; A Slice of Pie, Rolla, MO; Wayside Restaurant, Berlin, VT)