ark Twain, one o America’s greatest writers, ate pie regularly, and never more so than when he was eeling depressed. During a amily tour o Europe in 1878–1879, Twain decided the ood was atrocious. “It has now been many months,” he wrote in
A Tramp Abroad
, “since I have had a nourishing meal, but I shall soon have one — a modest, private aﬀair, all to mysel.” Twain compiled a “little bill o are” and sent it ahead by ocean steamer so the dishes could be ready when he arrived home. Along with “American butter”, “American roast bee”, and “San Francisco mussels”, the list included apple pie, peach pie, American mince pie, pumpkin pie and squash pie. Clearly, pie was an indispensable item on Mr Twain’s dinner table.Anyone who has ever visited the United States and paid attention to the menus will ﬁnd no surprise in that. Pie is everywhere. Its appeal is contagious, too. One o my avourite things to do in New York City is drop by an old-ashioned diner, slide onto a counter stool and point out my pie o choice rom the rotating dessert cabinet. The slices are always outrageously large, with Everest-high pastry crust or jam so red it puts cherries to shame. I order black coﬀee and ace the window to watch the world roll by in a tableau o yellow cabs. I have done this enough times to understand why a Nielsen poll, conducted early this year, ound that 26 per cent o American respondents said they’ve hidden pie so they didn’t have to share it.Given its status as one o the most American o desserts, it’s a remarkable act that pie doesn’t even come rom America. The ﬁrst recorded recipe or apple pie dates to 1381, in England, and a Dutch cookbook circa 1514 oﬀers a recipe with latticed pastry. Pie travelled to the New World with the pilgrims, who used the method to preserve the strange ruits and berries they harvested rom the wilderness. As pioneers moved west across the continent, pies began to take on regional speciﬁcity: blueberry pie became synonymous with Maine, chess pie ﬂourished in the south (it oten contains bourbon) and sour cherry pie appeared on the shores o Lake Michigan. Pie might not be native to America, but it so ﬂavours the national mythology it may as well be.Perhaps it’s little wonder that last Thanksgiving in the White House President Barack Obama was served nine types o pie, including huckleberry, pecan and banana cream. He has been called ‘the pie-loving President’ — a nickname Obama wears like a badge o honour. “I like pie,” he told a crowd at a political rally six years ago. “You like pie, too?” The crowd roared approval, as he most certainly knew it would. There’s one simple act any traveller would do well to remember in this country: i you want to get to the heart o America, it’s a sure-ﬁre bet to go through the stomach.
EAT PIE, LOVE LIFE
Indeed, travel and pie go together like lemon and meringue. My advice would be to get oﬀ the highways, trace the country roads and stop at every roadside stall, state air and unassuming cae, searching or homemade pies. I say this not because pie is delicious (although it obviously is), but because homemade pie oﬀers a window into somebody’s lie and times. I travel is about collecting experiences, then pie is the ultimate icebreaker.One example can be ound in bucolic Eldon, Iowa, at the house immortalised in Grant Wood’s iconic painting
. The house belongs to Beth Howard and or several weekends o each summer over the past ew years, people have been lining up in her living room or the Pitchork Pie Stand (305 American Gothic St, Eldon, Iowa; www.theworldneedsmorepie.com), where she sells her exquisite handmade creations baked in the tiny kitchen. Howard sees pie as something restorative — a way to raise spirits and spread goodwill. Ater her husband died suddenly in 2009, she climbed into his RV and drove around the country, using pie to assuage her grie. She ultimately wrote a memoir about her experiences called
Making Piece: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Pie
. (Her new cookbook,
Ms. American Pie
, was released in April.)“When I think o pie, I think about how it can help people and how it makes people eel good,” she says. Her conviction in pie is so strong that last year she visited Newtown, Connecticut, and corralled volunteers to make nearly 300 homemade pies or a community reeling rom a tragic shooting. “I don’t believe in the
(clockwise rom lef)
The road ino Pie Town, New Mexico; Paciﬁc Pie Company co-owners Sarah Curis-Fawley and Chris Powell specialise in Ausralian mea pies; Beh Howard has made baking pies big business; Paciﬁc Pie Company’s freshly baked goods and is Porland sore sign; Sweeie-licious serves up a delicious assormen of pies from is wo Michigan sores.