Why Americans Are Pie People

With Guest Host John Harwood.

There is nothing more American than a piece of pie. We taste and talk pies.

Guest Renee McLeod of Somerville, MA's Petsi pies shows off her wares. (Robin Lubbock / WBUR)The collection of pies sampled live on air on On Point Radio's July 25 broadcast. (Robin Lubbock / WBUR)A close up of Renee McLeod's (delicious) sour cherry pie. (Robin Lubbock / WBUR)

We’ve all heard the phrase “American as apple pie.”  But stop and think: is it the apple, or pie itself? We didn’t invent it – ancient Egyptians may have. But in the mid-20th century bakers in suburbs across the country made it our own. We’ll hear about the state of the art, and regional variations,  from specialists in Iowa, New York, Massachusetts and our nation’s capital. We’ll  eat some too.  Apple or pecan?  Butter crust, or shortening?  Follow the recipe, or make it up as you go? This hour, On Point:  an iconic American dessert.

– John Harwood


Beth Howard, author of the new book “Ms. American Pie: Butter, Good Pie Recipes and Bold Tales from the American Gothic House.” (@worldneedspie)

Willa Zhen, professor food anthropology at the Culinary Institute of America.

Renee McLeod, founder of Petsi Pies, an independent bakery and coffee bar in Somerville, Mass.

Marla Romash, pastry chef and caterer at Marla’s Magic, a bakery and catering company in Washington, D.C. Former White House communications director for former Vice President Al Gore. (@politcookieco)

From The Reading List

Vox: Pie vs cake — “Cake is fine to eat at your second cousin’s daughter’s 6th birthday party while you stand in the corner and bemoan your existence, or at the wedding of the first guy you ever loved, but it’s nothing to celebrate.Cake is just a circular dessert that is trying to be as good as pie. Both cake and pie can come in fruit or chocolate varieties. Both are baked in the oven. Both can be served in slices. But only one can be dense and dry and bland. Pie is an American tradition about love and family. Pie is delicious, and complicated, and infinitely better than cake.”

The Good Cook: Aye, Aye, Ms. American Pie! – “Iowa is pie heaven. New Englanders may take offense (but, really, Boston cream pie is more like a cake). Southerners will be mad enough to spit. But Iowa gets the prize, never more so than now that Beth M. Howard is touring the country for her new book, ‘Ms. American Pie.'”

New York Times: In the South, Cake or Pie for Dessert? — “When you bake a pie, you are in the kitchen in the company of ghosts. If you are crafting a crust, it’s most likely because at some point in your life, someone thought well enough of you to stand beside you at a counter and gift the muscle memory from her hands to yours.”

See our blog for some pie recipes from Beth Howard and other guests!

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