Pie is turning up all over the US, having reinvented itself from a dowdy church supper ware to a stylish dessert served in 'flights' in some places. Each region has a specialty based on local ingredients and culture. If you filled your plate motoring across the country – made an American pie flight, so to speak – it'd look like this:
Sweet and Sour East
Fruit pies rule the oven racks in the East. Maine bakes blueberries between its crusts, a fine way to use the 89 million pounds of juicy morsels it grows each year. A slab likely will follow your dinner at the local lobster shack, so forgo that last claw to save room.
Vermont takes pie seriously enough to have an official state pie: apple. Come harvest time in early fall, apple festivals (www.vermontapples.org) crank up with pie baking contests and, better yet, pie eating contests (no hands, please).
Florida is another serious contender with a state pie: key lime in this case, compliments of the abundant local lime crop.
A slice of key lime pie (photo by arsheffield)
And what about Boston Cream Pie, the Beantown specialty? It's actually a spongy cake - split and filled with custard, then frosted with chocolate. But the name has stuck for 150 years since the 'pie' first hit the table, so who's to quibble?
The Midwest is where pie reaches epic proportions, and belt loosening becomes a necessity.
Indiana is the third (and last) state to have an official pie: sugar cream. The Village Inn Restaurant (107 S Main St, Middlebury), in the heart of Amish Country, makes a silky slice of goodness. Bonneted women in pastel dresses and chunky white tennis shoes come in at 4:30am daily to bake the pies. Arrive before lunch to get the best selection, which also includes peanut butter, Snickers and banana cream.
'How's the pie?' the waitress asks a customer hunkered down at the counter, forking with a frenzy.
'Mmm. Mmm, mmm, mmm,' comes the reply.
Pie selection at The Village Inn (photo by .melanie)
North in Wisconsin, the Norske Nook (13804 7th St, Osseo) hangs a sign that says, 'Pie Fixes Everything'. Try the chocolate mint or blueberry crunch varieties, and you'll believe it. They've both won blue ribbons at the National Pie Championship. Thank the thick, hand-rolled crust for the honours.
In Illinois, Route 66 is not only the Mother Road, but the mother lode when it comes to pie. At the time-warped Palms Grill Cafe (110 SW Arch St, Atlanta), thick slabs of gooseberry, peach and sour cream raisin tempt from a glass case, while the Andrews Sisters croon from the stereo. And after dinner at the Ariston Cafe (413 Old Route 66, Litchfield), the waitress hauls out a big ol' dessert tray stacked with Reese's, caramel-nut and other dreamy pies. Consider it fuel for the long drive onward.
Nutty South & Tart West
Down south, everyone's gramma has her own recipe for pecan pie, where secret ingredients swirl in the bowl with the nuts and corn syrup. Royer's Round Top Cafe (105 Main St, Round Top), in middle of nowhere Texas, has earned a swooning crowd for its version. It's so traditional you're charged 50 cents extra for not getting the ice cream on top. The chef also whips up southern-style buttermilk and coconut chess pies. Can't decide? They offer a pie flight!
Fresh produce dominates the West's wedges. Apples from Washington and cherries from California are baked into buttery tarts and served warm under a scoop of ice cream. You don't even have to feel guilty about indulging. Thanks to research from the American Pie Council, we know 1 in 5 Americans has devoured an entire pie solo. So eating a piece or two is well within bounds, no matter how you slice it.