JANUARY PIE DAY
For anyone participating in Dry January or Clean Eating, we really don’t need any distractions. Being reminded to eat more pie by Pi(e) Day’s distant relation, National Pie Day, seems unfair. Elbowing it’s way onto the calendar, pie’s lesser-known celebration has chosen to land on the seemingly random date of January 23rd.
Originally credited to American engineer Charlie Papazian, Charlie proclaimed his birthday, January 23rd, as National Pie Day. The American Pie Council took up sponsorship of the holiday in 1986 on the date that coincided with the 75th anniversary of Crisco shortening. Aimed to increase sales of the famous blue-labeled shortening, the marketing ploy worked. Today, National Pie Day is recognized as yet another excuse to bake and eat pie. Hard-core Pi(e) Day loyalists remain tethered to March 14th, unwavering in their dedication to the mathematical/double crust celebration. Whether you choose the January or the March date, (and there’s nothing wrong with celebrating both) here’s a true tale from my workplace of the restorative power of pie.
I am convinced that pie is more powerful than any bar cookie or frosting slathered cupcake or gluten-free quick bread. Pie has a sixth sense- a way of knowing when it’s most needed. Pie prides itself on being the center of attention in November and again in late May and early July, but it seems to me, pie is most restorative on ordinary days.
About a year ago, a giant cloak of sadness, of profound loss, engulfed the bakery. While we were in the thick of it, pie helped cushion the blow. Not just in the eating, but in the baking. The repetitive nature of rolling and crimping, of juicing lemons and whisking eggs, peeling apples and weaving lattice, provided a welcome distraction. The term Misery Pie seemed an apt description; a dessert whose sole purpose was to alleviate the excruciating pain. As promised, the pain eased but never really went away. Grief seemed like a word reserved for people (other than hipsters) dressed in black, in a state of constant mourning, and it felt a little bit self-indulgent, so I renamed it Melancholy. Melancholy liked to breeze in and out, hiding around corners, jumping out and dragging me down when I least expected it, but allowing me to get on with my day.
Strongly believing that most days can benefit from a triangular slice of pie, a faux food calendar telling me to celebrate National Pie Day feels hollow. Eyeing a stack of empty pie shells in the freezer and choosing how to fill them is enough of a reminder. Shivering in the walk-in and considering my options, cold storage apples feel better suited to fall. Folding up the hem of my apron to create a pocket, two lemons nestle easily into the linen-service-quality polyester. Cradling a flat of eggs and two quarts of buttermilk in my arms, I open the door of the walk-in with my elbow. No sooner do I start cracking eggs into a bowl and zesting the lemons, a customer walks through the bakery door, scanning the front table in hopes of a buttermilk pie. When asked if there was a chance I’d be baking the tangy custard pie any time soon, I hold up the orange capped Five Acre Farms Local buttermilk in reply.
Without prompting, the customer confides that she is having a bad day and a buttermilk pie might turn things around. Clearly, this wasn’t any old pie request; I sensed this was in fact, a Misery Pie. “My father passed away in December. It was his favorite,” she whispers. That not-so-old hole in my heart ached in sympathy. I nodded.
Pie seems to know when it’s needed. The same way a piecrust cradles a filling, protecting it from the heat of the oven, pie can also cushion us from some of life’s harshest realities. The English writer and dramatist John Lyly, is credited for a series of books written around 1579, titled, Euphues. Lyly wrote, “In misery it is great comfort to have a companion.” It seems plausible that on certain days, faux or factual holiday, or plain old Thursday, pie makes a fine companion, indeed.
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