Holiday Pies

What Pie Am I?

For 10 months out of the year, the battle between cake lovers and pie diehards rages as a sugar-fueled tit for tat over which dessert is more beloved by the public. Birthdays have long been cake territory — whether you’re talking heirloom recipe carrot cake or from-the-box rainbow sprinkle — but pie has been making some serious moves into these celebrations. (Peach pie with candles in it, anyone?) Pie typically finds itself center stage at summertime potlucks and family reunions, particularly in situations where frosting might become a buttercream puddle in the sun. But the needle has been moving toward cake recently, as (typically icing-free) bundt and pound cakes are having a moment of potluck-dining glory.

The two months out of the year, though, that remain firmly and undeniably pie territory — no questions asked — are November and December, the holiday season.

Pie’s stranglehold during these colder months dates all the way back to 14th-century England, where it was a celebratory dish that began as a gussied-up porridge. “In the beginning, there was frumenty — a plain wheat porridge that was the staple food of peasants,” writes Janet Clarkson in 2009’s Pie: A Global History. “It was enriched for special occasions (such as Christmas) with sugar and spice and all other things nice, such as eggs, dried fruit (‘plums’), wine and finely chopped meat. This Christmas porridge…eventually evolved into Christmas (mincemeat) pie.”

As for Thanksgiving, sweet-tooth-approved pies have become as critical to that beloved November meal as any turkey and stuffing. (Just try to imagine your family’s reaction if someone forgot the pies one year. A nightmare, right?) “America has developed a pie tradition unequivocally and unapologetically at the sweet end of the scale, and at no time is this better demonstrated than at Thanksgiving in November,” Clarkson writes. “It seems that the country goes pie-mad at this time…”

And after a particularly trying year for many, who isn’t anticipating that first slice of pie and its ability to melt away troubles — at least momentarily — with its sweetness? Maybe you’ll eat the pie before the meal itself, or maybe you’ll have multiple servings back to back. Maybe you stack one slice atop the other to make a double-decker pie slice! Whatever your approach, we’re all afforded a little extra room to indulge as wackily as we please this holiday season. After all, as David Mamet wrote in his 1999 play, Boston Marriage, “We must have a pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie.”

If you’ve ever been curious which pie reflects your personality best (and which one you might consider hitting up first on the dessert table), the following quiz will help reveal your baked-to-perfection doppelgänger.

1. First things first: What’s your favorite holiday side dish?
A: Sweet potato casserole — I like to keep things unfussy and traditional.
B: Collard greens, and I always take a big helping.
C: Cornbread dressing, particularly if it’s packed with plenty of unexpected ingredients. (Bacon, anyone?)
D: Stuffed mirliton for me, please.
E: I’ll eat just about anything as long as it’s smothered in hot sauce.
F: Whatever dish has been grilled over an open flame, like charbroiled oysters.

2. Sounds delicious! Ideally, where would you be eating this snack?
A: Surrounded by my super-tight extended family. One year, we all even bought matching pajamas!
B: While moving between different “Friendsgiving” events and holiday parties. My social network is wide.
C: Leftovers from the refrigerator. I couldn’t make it to the party because of a research deadline, but my best friend brought me a plate to-go.
D: At a restaurant, cocktail in hand. I love to see and be seen!
E: I’m hosting pop-up picnics around town the whole holiday season. Why go with tradition when you can break it?
Out in nature among the flora and fauna, alone with my thoughts.

3. That sounds cheery. Do you have any beloved pets coming along?
My rescue dog, of course. I found him at a shelter five years ago and we do everything together.
No, but I keep an elaborate fish tank in my house and love adding new, colorful fish to my collection.
My two cats and I will be staying home, but just because that’s where we like to be, anyway.
I take my pot-bellied pig with me to most big events. He loves people and I love the attention.
My Chihuahua, Rosie, often rides in my purse. Don’t worry — her bark is bigger than her bite!
I don’t have any pets, but I’ve been known to rescue injured wild animals and nurse them back to health.

4. Keep the party rolling! Which holiday song gets you in a festive spirit the most?
“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” by Andy Williams .
Anyone singing “Frosty the Snowman” is fine by me!
C: The entirety of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” by Vince Guaraldi.
“Fairytale of New York” by The Pogues.
“Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” by Darlene Love.
“The 12 Yats of Christmas” by Benny Grunch & The Bunch.

5. Speaking of holiday spirits, what’s your go-to cold weather cocktail?
Eggnog, what else?
A frothy, boozy Irish Coffee always does the trick for me.
Hot toddies made with unique teas from my collection (and plenty of bourbon).
D: Sharing a Tom & Jerry with some new friends out of the vintage serving vessel I bought on eBay.
Hot buttered rum! Why pass up a chance to add butter to a cocktail?
Warm plum brandy — I’ve been infusing the liquor for months in preparation for this very season.

6. That’ll warm you right up! How else do you plan on staying cozy?
An infinity scarf I hand-knitted earlier this year.
B: Something from my vintage sweatshirt collection that’s widely envied by my pals. (Plus, they’re super soft.)
C: I’ve been teaching myself how to cook yakitori on a traditional charcoal grill.
D: Creating a steamy at-home sauna in my bathroom.
E: Finally settling down with a significant other for the foreseeable future (at least until the weather improves).
F: My ultra-thermal sleeping bag.

7. How many times are you going back to the dessert table for seconds?
A: A few, but not until I’m completely sure everyone else has had their fill.
B: A couple, probably, but mostly to chat with different people I’ve missed.
C: One trip is typically fine for me (so I can go back to reading my book).
D: Multiple trips? Oh no! I stuffed at least three extra helpings into my purse on the first trip.
E: As many as I want — I’m not afraid to take the last piece of anything.
F: I’m typically only eating half a plate to begin with.

Mostly As in the quiz? You’re Chess Pie
Just like chess pie is a classic saccharine delight with its super-simple, butter-meets-sugar filling, you’re an understated favorite among family and friends, always working in the background to help make someone’s day a little easier. Whether at an animal shelter or a food pantry, you love to volunteer, and community service is an important part of your DNA. Some might interpret your reserved nature as shyness, but that’s just a reflection of how considerate and deliberate you are about your actions. You’re far more concerned about deep connections — like what’s in your heart and the hearts of others — than first impressions.

Make the Pie Funky: A chocolate chess pie with a kick of cayenne or Thai chili is a sweet-meets-heat treat that might make you break a (delicious) sweat.
Have a Drink with Your Pie: Cabernet Sauvignon is the ideal dry red wine to help cut through some of chess pie’s sugar rush while standing up to its richness.

Mostly Bs? You’re Sweet Potato Pie
A smooth operator who can easily move from one friend group to another, as a sweet potato pie you’re a jill-of-all-trades who knows how to please people. One day you might be hitting the open mic to show off your stand-up set, then the next, you’re impressing the crowd with yet another perfectly executed pass during touch football. In anyone else’s hands, your chameleon-like nature might seem off-putting, but you’re so down-to-earth that no one can resist wanting to be your friend.

Make the Pie Funky: Adding a praline crumble to sweet potato pie creates a craggy, delicious topping that even the biggest holiday humbugs can’t resist.
Have a Drink with Your Pie: A simple cup of coffee with a splash of orange liqueur is all this dessert needs.

Mostly Cs? You’re Pecan Pie
There’s a lot going on with you, pecan pie, and that’s a good thing. A little bit nerdy, a little bit nutty and with a whole lot of brain power, you’re the type of intellectual pie that can easily synthesize different concepts and ideas into something entirely new. (Pecan pie is believed by many to have originated in New Orleans in the 17th century, bringing together a French baking tradition and the pecan nut after it was introduced by the Quinipissa or Tangipahoa tribe.) Sure, some might not be able to keep up with your inner complexity, but for those who get what you’re all about, there’s no one more fun. 

Make the Pie Funky: Consider throwing some crushed-up pretzels into the mix — or baking the pie with a pretzel crust — for an unexpected salty crunch. (Or investing in a griddle to give it the Camellia Grill treatment.)
Have a Drink with Your Pie: Sip on a glass of the finest bourbon in your collection, neat. Bonus points if you add some of it into the pie when you’re making it.

Mostly Ds? You’re Fruit Hand Pies

Bubbly, outgoing and decidedly quirky, you’re always the first in line at karaoke to sing your favorite song, and don’t mind at all if you’re a little off-key. Just like fruit hand pies take a “get up and go!” attitude toward snacking, you might have started a dancing flash mob once or twice in your life, always pulling people in from the sidelines to get involved. Generosity is your middle name, which means that you’re never caught without something to share with others — and maybe a few extra homemade coconut hand pies in your purse.

Make the Pie Funky: When it comes to filling, if you can dream it, you can hand-pie it. Looking for inspiration? Start by mixing and matching with some unexpected herbal additions: blueberries and lavender, for instance, or cherries and thyme.
Have a Drink with Your Pie: A classic pilsner or dark lager is a strong choice so you can move freely with pie in one hand and beer in the other.

Mostly Es? You’re Lemon Ice Box Pie
A little bit sour and a little bit sweet, sass and brass are your calling cards. You might come off as somewhat icy when you first meet people — and some say you’re an acquired taste when compared to your more famous frozen pie cousin, key lime — but those you let into your inner circle know you’re fiercely loyal and support them no matter the situation. A natural rule breaker, you’re always the first to speak your mind around the holiday dinner table (no matter how much drama it causes) and don’t mind standing out in a sea of more traditional cold-weather pies.         

Make the Pie Funky: Try mixing up your fruit choice (strawberry is always a hit) or grilling your citrus — lemons, oranges, you name it — for extra caramelization and depth of flavor.
Have a Drink with Your Pie: A glass of bubbly Prosecco is a perfect match, or if you’re ready to double-down on the lemon, a French 75.

Mostly Fs? You’re Crawfish Pie
When it comes to pie — and life — savory (and savoring it) is the name of the game for you; you’ll take a crawfish pie over the sugary stuff any day of the week. Outdoorsy, health-focused and always ready to head out into nature, grabbing a Yeti cooler for a camping adventure or long, leisurely afternoon of fishing constitutes a dream weekend for you. When it comes to the holidays, you’ll be just as happy whipping up something for a solo cool-weather meal over an open flame than gathering around a table with a gaggle of cousins. Because for you, there’s nothing quite like reconnecting with yourself and the hum of plants and animals in the fresh air.

Make the Pie Funky: Miniature, single-serving crawfish pies are ideal for group settings and, let’s face it, look downright adorable.
Have a Drink with Your Pie: A Vieux Carré (cognac, Benedictine, sweet vermouth, rye and aromatic bitters) is a potent, smooth cocktail that can handle the savory, flaky-meets-creamy complexity of a crawfish pie.