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The Power of Pie

Photo (c) 2007 Derek Ramsey (Ram-Man) - Self-photographed. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons

Thanksgiving is fast approaching, and many will be unbuttoning their pants so as to make room for a slice of pumpkin pie. Of course, pumpkin pie wasn't at the first Thanksgiving, but according to the American Pie Council, "Pie has been around since the ancient Egyptians."

While we think of pies as a sweet treat, they gained prominence as meat filled savories, and what we think of pie crust today was originally referred to as “coffyns.”  Later, American colonists would bake their pies in long, narrow pans referred to as “coffins”. 

As I researched the origins of pie, I found this allusion to death to be fascinating, and I thought about all of the slices of pie I have eaten at the meals following funerals of loved ones. Life is often so bitter, and yet a good piece of pie allows us to get present in our bodies, admiring the flaky crust, the sweet, firm filling, and perhaps the vanilla ice cream or whipped cream perched atop it. We must take our sweetness where we can find it, particularly in the aftermath of such loss.

A few months ago, my family watched PBS’ “A Few Good Pie Places”. It was delicious viewing, but my daughter and I got really excited by Braham, MN who has an annual pie day.

“That’s awesome!” I exclaimed, “someone should do that in Macomb!”

My daughter nodded vigorously.

“People should just gather and eat pie!” I might have clapped at my pronouncement.

“Yes!” she shouted. “People should!”

“And there should be music!”

“Yes! Music! And a variety show!”

“Yes!” I said and we high fived. Then we got quiet.

“You should do it,” she said. “Really. You should.”

“I’m too busy. Plus, who would come?”

“I would come! Dad would come! Jack would come!”

Credit Rich Egger
Barbara Harroun

It sounded like such fun. But I was busy, really busy with work and kids and walking the dog, and writing, and ignoring my dirty house, and really? An Annual Day of Pie? Come on. Get real. Be an adult. But I couldn’t get it out of my mind. Everyone on that show looked so happy because they were in the moment, eating pie. And what if everyone brought a pie? Everyone! And there was music and an Old Timey Variety show? What if? I talked to my good friends and they lit up. Yes to the First Annual Day of Pie. My daughter even said she’d be in the Old Timey Variety Show.

It’s so easy to talk our selves out of good ideas. And in the grand scheme of things, a Day of Pie did seem utterly ridiculous. Yet, when I reflected on all the pie I’ve eaten in my life, it occurred to me that each piece had been offered in love. Each piece had required me to sit at a table with others. And over pie I have shared my life. I associate pie with community, with laughter and fun, with connection and kindness.

We need more of all of these things. Life is so hard, and often so lonely. The holidays, too, are a burden for many. In light of the terrorist attacks on Paris, Beirut and Kenya, in light of the courageous protests on Mizzou’s campus and the necessary discussions and actions they prompt, in light of loss, and grief, and cancer, and poverty—how to justify a First Annual Day of Pie?

But then I thought that perhaps the questions was, how NOT to justify a First Annual Day of Pie? Everyone deserves to be offered a piece of pie with kindness. Everyone deserves to put down their burdens, and move their bodies and lift their voices in song, or to get caught up in the pleasure of performance. Everyone deserves to feel a part of something larger—community.

And so, consider this your invitation to The First Annual Day of Pie. It’s Sunday, November 22nd from 1:00-4:00 p.m. at The Old Bailey House. The awesome Kevin Dean will be providing pie inspired music from 1:00-2:30, and then he’ll MC the Old Timey Variety Show. You can sign up for the variety show on the day of the event, so if you have a family friendly talent, come and wow us. I ask only that you bring a pie (or two!), a nonperishable food item for Loaves & Fishes Food Pantry, and, only if you can afford it, a $5 bill that will be part of the First Annual Day of Pie Act of Kindness.

If you believe in kindness, pie, and fun, and even if you don’t, come, sit, have a slice of pie. By  4:00 p.m. we’ll make a believer out of you yet. We’ll be reminded of the small, good things people can do when they gather together, even if it’s only over a slice of pie.

Barbara Harroun is an Assistant Professor of English at Western Illinois University.

The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the University or Tri States Public Radio.  Diverse viewpoints are welcomed and encouraged.