American Pie: Slices of Life (and Pie) from America's Back Roads
by Pascale Le Draoulec
Is there any dish more American than pie? Seeking to determine its unique place in our cultural and culinary life, journalist Pascale Le Draoulec's American Pie: Slices of Life (and Pie) from America's Back Roads chronicles the author's cross-country pie hunt. Her search by car--from San Francisco to New York--uncovers every native pie variety, from Montana huckleberry to Pennsylvania shoofly; it also reveals, perhaps predictably, an America of towns with 60 churches for 2,500 inhabitants and "white-haired women with calloused rolling pin palms," a breed sadly in decline, as is pie making, which takes time we don't seem to have. Still, pie makers like Oklahoma's Leoda Mueller (coconut cream) and Minnesota's Lola Nebel (raspberry pear) are out there, and for many of them fixing pies remains a link to the past, present, and self.
Le Draoulec's journey is also a personal one. Besides learning that we're a land that often likes its pie crusts purchased pre-made, or prepared with butter-flavored Crisco (how quickly we embrace industrial foods!), Le Draoulec completes a pie-bracketed journey of her own, from an unsettled West Coast life to domesticity and an impending marriage in the East. There she plans to bake a marriage pie, "huckleberry and peach, like the one [she] loved at the Spruce Café in Montana." If Le Draoulec doesn't usually manage to get under her characters' skin, and if her narrative lacks conclusiveness, she nonetheless provides an arresting look at an iconic food whose place is both entrenched and precarious. The book includes photos and 25 recipes from the pie makers, such as Mildred Snook's Sour Cream Raisin Pie, Bufford's Dad's Buttermilk Pie, and Mamma Millsap's Open-Faced Apple Pie.
--Arthur Boehm, Amazon.com