Rejoice, o pie lovers of St. Louis! Today, January 23, is National Pie Day!
Why January 23? Why not the infinitely more logical March 14? (3.14 = Pi = Pie.) Why the hell not? Not that you necessarily need a reason to eat pie, but isn't it nice to have an excuse? Especially during this month of cold and gloom and guilty, New Year's resolution-induced gym-going?
But since you asked...
Gut Check is a crack reporter, always determined to get the story, so we called up the American Pie Council (publishers of the newsletter Pie Times). Alas, they did not get back to us. So we resorted to a secondhand report from the Commercial Appeal of Memphis, Tennessee, which tells us:
"Jan. 23 is National Pie Day, so declared by the American Pie Council. The story goes that the date was selected before the pie council was formed in 1986, so chosen by a man who loved pie so much he wanted his birthday to be known as National Pie Day."
Well, who can argue with that?
Of local purveyors of pie, only a few seemed aware of this wondrous event. At the Original Fried Pie Shop (1 West 5th Street, Eureka; 636-587-7743), winner of Riverfront Times' Best Pie (Fried Division) for 2012, there seemed to be some confusion as to whether National Pie Day was somehow related to the Chinese New Year. Last year, apparently, the two celebrations had coincided.
Sugaree Baking Company (1242 Tamm Avenue; 314-645-5496) will not be celebrating National Pie Day, either, since its storefront is only open on Friday and Saturday. "Holidays don't always work for us," explains owner Pat Rutherford. She adds, somewhat wistfully, "I wish I were eating pie right now."
Pie Oh My (2719 Sutton Boulevard, Maplewood; 314-704-4416), the area's newest pie shop, Tweeted earlier today that, in honor of National Pie Day, it was planning to give away a free miniature cream pie with each $5 purchase and, even more momentously, debut its new vodka crust. (A discovery of the mad food scientists of America's Test Kitchen, substituting vodka for water is said to produce less gluten, making pie crust more moist and supple and easier to handle. The vodka then burns off in the oven -- and voila! Flaky crust! Like many things related to the finer points of pie-baking, the effectiveness of this method is subject to debate.)
Belleville's Pie Pantry (310 East Main Street, Belleville; 618-277-4140) takes its celebration more seriously -- so seriously, in fact, that it's holding off until Saturday so its customers can engage in unbridled pie gluttony, unhampered by going to their jobs. For $10, you can enjoy unlimited access to a pie buffet, which will feature between twelve and fifteen different pies, ranging from banana creme to French silk to cherry cheesecake, plus the good old standbys apple and cherry. There will also be a pie-baking contest, with prizes!
How is it that Pie Pantry, which has been celebrating National Pie Day for years, was aware of the celebration when so many of us were not?
"We're in the pie business," owner Tim Faltus says, somewhat smugly.
But Aaron Groff of 4 Seasons Bakery (2012 Campus Drive, St. Charles; 314-288-9176), producers of the Best Pie in St. Louis in 2012, had probably the best suggestion for celebrating. Although he was unaware of the momentousness of the day until we told him about it, he recovered quickly: "Take a piece of pie -- right now, I'm really into apple crumb -- and warm it up and eat with a cup of hot coffee. It'll really hit the spot on a cold day like today."
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