Wednesday, July 8, 2009


The great director Francois Truffaut said "It's a beautiful day! Let's go to the movies!" I say, "It's a beautiful day! Let's eat pie down by the lake!" On July 5th, 2009, a collection of 22 food loving folk gathered on the grassy shore of Lake Michigan in Chicago, braving amazingly difficult parking conditions, vague directions (sorry, Mike!) and 4th of July hangovers to enjoy an unbelievably beautiful evening, all in the name of, you guessed it, pie. Now, when the call went out to come together for the pie off, one of the most surprising responses was "Can I make a savory pie?" I'm not sure I've ever been in a pie situation where more people were interested, immediately, in making it savory-style, and I'm not sure if it's due to the recent proliferation of the clever pork pie hat everywhere I look, but I can say that I have absolutely no problem with the savory pie. In fact, I made one myself. But more on that later.

The real story here is the amazing variety that was provided, functioning as a complete meal in that there was an entree and a dessert available, and even individually packaged Frito pies serving, if one stretched the imagination, as a sort of amuse-bouche. A woman made crust for the first time, using her grandmother's recipe which included plenty of lard; someone took time out of a heavy baking schedule (a tropical iron cupcake challenge, I'm told) to bake a gorgeous pie; tarts were given a go; someone even braised pork butt in order to fill a pie. All in all, it was an absolute success, complete with live bongos and maracas one spot over, a delightfully boisterous and soft dog, perfect weather, and despite the obligatory harrasment from the cops, we were pretty much left alone the rest of the evening. We spread out a couple of blankets and pie'd it up, taking ideas in pie to strange new heights.

And so, without further ado, meet the pies (the pie pictured at top is a Peach and Caramelized Honey Pie). You can click on the pictures for ginormous versions of them:

The aforementioned Frito Pies

Vanilla Custard and Cookie Crust Pie

Apple Tart

Turtle Pie

Polenta, Sausage and Fennel Pie

Hot Mayo and Tomato Pie

Pecan Pie

Also brought, but sadly, not pictured as my mitts were too busy shoveling pie into my, um, piehole, included a Banoffee Pie (basically a banana cream pie with a lovely toffee), a delicious pork pie made with braised pork butt and a biscuit crust, a bourbon-cherry pie (and I tell you what, bourbon comes first in the name for a reason), a devilishly rich and decadent cheese pie (think cheesecake, then make it a pie), some market fresh blueberries not yet in pie form and one beloved pie-napple that became a mascot of sorts.
So, I'm thinking we keep the good grub rolling, and look ahead to a barbecue/grilling potluck of sorts in August. It'll be a good chance for all the bbq'ers who are certain there is only one way to do it to educate the rest of us on what we've been missing, and for those less, shall we say, passionate about the specifics to enjoy a good schooling on what makes different barbecue what. What the differences are amongst regions, and what makes a really good side dish. Of course, since we here at Food on the Dole are interested in removing the competition from food and replacing it with a more community-centric approach, it should be made clear that despite the name, The Smoked Meat and Sides Challenge '09 will not be judged, just like the Pie-Off was not judged. There are no losers, and there are many winners. You know, kind of like on field day in grade school, where everyone gets a ribbon. But you know, when it comes to pie and barbecue, is there ever anything other than blue ribbons?