Pie Art: Meet artisanal bakers of great all-American pies

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From the June 28, 2012 edition

As a nation of exceptional people, we naturally excel at celebrating our country’s birthday on the Fourth of July. Yeah, we blow stuff up, burn meat and eat pie. I suppose you might say raucous displays, barbecue and wedge-shaped pastry are part of our American DNA.

So before writing an “American pie”/Fourth of July/great Columbus pies story, my first thought was this assignment should be as easy as ... yup. Too bad that “insight” was a bit of you-know-what in-the-sky.

See, other than a movie depicting the unspeakable desecration of a family dessert — and that long-winded Don McLean song — I wasn’t exactly sure what “American Pie” referred to (or how it differed from, say, Canadian pie). Secondly, because there are literally dozens of beloved, even iconic Columbus pies (e.g. Schmidt’s cream bombs, Der Dutchman’s Amish comforters, Just Pies’ irresistible specimens), I couldn’t possibly include every mouth-watering local treat.

Following intrepid hunting at some of our bustling farmers markets, expert bakeries and excellent restaurants, though, I began to get the red, white and blue drift of things. I started to understand that 1) great pie meant family and 2) not only were my favorite pies a little “square peggy,” but they came with a compelling narrative.

Lastly, I realized that in the spirit of democracy we’re gonna celebrate on Independence Day — whether it was a carefully handmade pastry from a homey, one-person operation or a Euro-rooted beauty from an ultra-professional team — every ruggedly individualistic and singularly delicious pie in this story has a special place at the huge table we call America.