Saturday, December 27, 2008

Serving Pie & Coffee: How To

After spending a good deal of time in the research of proper pie service I was surprised to find that very few articles exist (on the Internet at least) regarding what I believed was likely to be a very heated topic. I have no doubt that the origins of pie date back hundreds and perhaps thousands of years. Surely, I thought, there must be a seminal article in the official rules and standards of proper pie service? Alas, I have yet to find the essential guidelines and thus I am left to synthesize information gathered from here and there in my attempt at what amounts to a basic review of the literature on the topic.

I recall from previous rea
ding that the odds are fairly good that apple pie dominates the market followed closely by pumpkin and then pecan. I seem to recall cherry and blueberry rather high in the ratings as was lemon Meringue and strawberry rhubarb. Then again the strawberry rhubarb may be more about my personal favorites than actual ratings from people more knowledgeable on the topic?

"Apparently, the results of a nationwide poll by Schwan's Consumer Brands North America (the makers of Mrs. Smith's) surprised even them. When asked what their three favorite pies were, people chose apple pies a whopping 72 percent of the time (47 percent for plain apple pie, and 25 percent for apple-crumb pie). Second place may be even more of a shock.

That's because the silver medal went to pumpkin pie, with 37 percent of the vote. Chocolate-cream pie came in third with 32 percent, and cherry came in last of the top scorers, with a surprisingly middling 27 percent.

The exact results:

1. Apple, 47 percent
2. Pumpkin, 37 percent
3. Chocolate creme, 32 percent
4. Cherry, 27 percent
5. Apple crumb, 25 percent
6. Pecan, 24 percent
7. Lemon Meringue, 24 percent
8. Blueberry, 21 percent
9. Key lime, 18 percent
10. Peach, 16 percent

That's right. No strawberry-rhubarb, no banana cream, no shoo-fly. Key lime and peach pies found popularity in the Southern states, but apple was strong all across the board

Interestingly, though, Key lime pie is the fastest growing frozen pie all across the country, according to the Schwan's people. Schwan's brand, Edward's Key lime pie, which just went from being only available in the South to being national, just overtook its apple pie as having the most sales. (The company's own chef in the contest, Michael Gunn, has entered multiple categories, and said they weren't swayed by the polls. His favorite entries: mixed-berry pie, Key lime pie, and two-crust apple pie with a Cinnabon glaze. He probably didn't get much sleep last night, but said, "The sugar always keeps us going.")

Other polls in the survey (an online poll of 1,000 people across many demographic groups) included people's favorite fictional pie-makers:

1. Carol Brady ("The Brady Bunch"), 40 percent
2. Claire Huxtable ("The Cosby Show") 22 percent
3. Bree Van de Camp "Desperate Housewives"), 16 percent
4. Debra Barone ("Everybody Loves Raymond"), 13 percent
5. Marge Simpson ("The Simpsons"), 8 percent

But wasn't Debra Barone supposed to be an awful cook?

Finally, this being a survey conducted at the behest of a pie-making company, there was one more poll: "Who makes the best pie?"

1. Mom, 27 percent
2. Store-bought convenience pies, 26 percent
3. Grandma, 17 percent"

(information borrowed from Michael Y. Park from

I have been unable to find any written preferences for what the pie should be served on but I'm pretty sure that either a plain white "pie plate" or a fine porcelain plate from Royal Copenhagen (any pattern) would do an admirable job. Again inserting my personal taste on the topic I have had some rather excellent pie served on Currier and Ives Plates. I think we can all generally agree that proper pie service requires that we stay free from paper or plastic plates unless we're tucked comfortably on our home couch or easy chair and want to avoid washing any more dishes for the evening? Here at SkagenHus we're fortunate to have a good supply of the Currier and Ives so we go that route. I've also found the images on the plates are very good a helping me imagine a simpler time in life and thus aid in stress relief to some extent; a very desirable state of mind achieved while eating pie and drinking coffee.

As far as the proper eating utensils go I think we can all agree once again that plastic is out, even at home on the comfortable couch? Forks versus spoons is an ongoing debate that lies outside the parameters of this particular blog entry so that choice is left to the reader to ponder.

Most articles I've read recommend eating pie at room temperature unless a scoop or two of ice cream is to be added. In the case of this ala mode version then it's desirable to heat the pie so the filling is warm (not hot) so as to provide the necessary culinary contrast in temperatures with the ice cream. I believe this is also true of pumpkin pie or other, non fruit pies served with whipped cream as an addition to their normal topping.

While it goes without saying that the coffee should be both good and hot, the cup again is a source of much debate. It seems reasonable to assume that if the pie is being eaten as part of a formal or semi-formal event then the cup will likely be wide at the mouth and shallow in depth complete with a saucer. It's been my experience that for the optimal sense of relaxation a sturdy 10 ounce porcelain mug with handle does the job very adequately. I don't know about you but the last thing I want to worry about is coffee spillage into the saucer when using a wide mouth cup.

So, in conclusion, pie is best served on a porcelain pie plate. It is eaten with a well balanced and comfortable spoon or fork and the coffee should be served in a 10 ounce coffee mug preferably free of frilly pictures or advertising. All these issues of course are dependent upon the setting or circumstance of your pie eating experience. For us at SkagenHus, coffee and pie is all about relaxation and a break from the daily stress of life. It's also about taste and when done right, it's about memories of bygone days when life was slower paced, less stressful and more civilized.

Here at
SkagenHus we want to take you back to a simpler, less rushed era when time seemed to stand still and people had the good sense to sit and savor a light meal and good conversation; in much the same way they are still enjoyed throughout Scandinavia today.

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