Monday, August 6, 2012

Continuing on with It's An Old New England Custom-To Have Pie for Breakfast

The anti-pie crusade was helped by the increasing tempo of American life. The curious notion that the more we rushed about the more civilized we were was beginning to take root. When we began to measure our progress by the rate of speed at which we could move and began to think that because we could get around ten or a dozen times faster than our grandfathers we were that much better than they were, pie as a morning dish was doomed. For nobody had time to eat a decent breakfast.
The female figure, too, may have had something to do with it, or rather men's ideas concerning the female figure.

When pie was in vogue, the buxom figure was admired. Matrons were expected to look matronly. Women could afford to let themselves go in the matter of food, helping themselves to pie at any meal they wished without giving it a second thought. But with he gradual change in ideas of feminine beauty, women were obliged to consider the consequences of heavy eating. They began to cut down on food to reduce their figures, and breakfast, the first meal of the day, was the first to suffer. It was whittled down until it became nothing but an empty mockery of a meal.

Pie, however, continued to linger for some time on may New England breakfast tables. Journeying toward the White Mountains one summer at the close of the last century{1800s}, Charles Dudley Warner fancied that he could draw a diet line passing through Bellows Falls and bending a little south on either side, which would mark, northward, the region of perpetual pie. But he came to the conclusion that pie was perhaps a matter of altitude rather than latitude, as he found that all the hill and country towns were full of women who would have felt ready to sink in mortification through their scoured kitchen floors if visitors caught them without a pie in the house.

The absence of pie would have been more noticeable, he declared than a scarcity of the Bible.
Since then, of course, pie has almost completely vanished from the breakfast tables of New England. Only occasionally is it to be encountered, and then in the most remote places. In the winter of 1940, I visited Criehaven off the Maine coast. It is a tiny fishing port on one of New England's farthest flung islands. My host, entering the kitchen in the morning, gazed for a moment at what his wife had set out for our breakfast, and then, "God bless my soul," he cried, "no pie!" But he was mistaken, for there was pie, and a memorable breakfast we made of it. there was oatmeal and toast and coffee, lobster stew and custard pie. It was the best stew I ever ate, and the custard pie just melted down my throat.

More recently, at Gouldsborough, Maine, a relative of mine was served black pumpkin pie for breakfast, which he said was delicious. Also on the table was a splendid chocolate cake.
But why, people ask, did New Englander's formerly eat so much for breakfast? The answer is quite simple.

It was because they had great things to do.

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