"Give a Piece a Chance." — Books. Blog. Pie Classes. And a Pinch of Activism.

Pies, Cupcakes, Can’t We All Just Get Along?

It started in October, when Nation’s Restaurant News reported that trendspotter and San Francisco-based restaurant consultant Andrew Freeman predicted 2011 was going to be the Year of the Pie. “If I had one trend — one trend — of the year that I could predict, that’s why it’s in the No. 1 position, this would be the trend for pie,” he said. “I think that we’re going to make room for pie shops in the next year.”

The New York Times followed up a few weeks later when Julia Moskin’s article “Pie to Cupcake: Time’s Up” fanned the flames. And then, on January 2nd, Bonny Wolf on NPR’s Weekend Edition declared the war was over. Her piece, titled “Cupcakes are Dead. Long Live the Pie!” claimed that pie had won.

Not so fast everyone. Jezebel, the racy website for “celebrity, sex and fashion for women” held a March Madness Cake vs. Pie Tournament last spring, conceived by Jezebel’s clever editor Jessica Coen (who also happens to be a basketball fan). She stated, “It’s time. We’ve fought for far too long. The Pie vs. Cake War must come to an end! But a winner can’t simply be chosen; there must be a battle, and you, dear reader, must decide the champion.” There was a battle alright. Tens of thousands of people weighed in daily over several weeks. The voting frenzy and accompanying commentary got opinionated readers worked up into a meringue-like froth. The irony is this: the champion was neither pie nor cake. It was some strange hybrid that no one could quite define — a cheesecake. And, oh, you should have heard the outrage! Who would have thought a humorous little contest meant only to be a spoof paralleling the basketball one would bring out the worst in people?

My question is this: why can’t we all just get along? Why do we have to make a competition out of everything? Why can’t we appreciate variety and recognize that there is room for everyone? Whether black, white, Asian, Jew, Catholic, Protestant, Muslim….whether LA Lakers, Boston Celtics, or Chicago Bulls….whether Northern California or Southern….whether Cabernet or Chardonnay….whether brownie, chocolate chip cookie, chocolate cupcake or chocolate #$&*%# cream pie… Vive la difference!  That’s what makes life so bloody interesting.

The pie vs. cupcake argument only serves to be divisive. And based on what I’m preaching from my pie pulpit, that’s not what pie is about. Pie is about peace, sharing, comfort, healing. I love pie, but who wants to eat pie every day? I don’t! And I’m someone who has devoted my whole existence to this quintessential American dessert! I crave a hearty piece of carrot cake once in a while. I am obsessed with Trader Joe’s Truffle Brownie Mix. And don’t let me near a plate of cookies of any kind as I can’t be stopped. As for cupcakes? We don’t need to kill them. They don’t need to die. I say, bring ’em on. A sure way to rock my world is by bringing me a chocolate one with white frosting, a white cake one with coconut frosting, or anything with a few cheerful sprinkles on top.

You can predict all the trends you want, you can hold all the competitions, write all the opinions, and wave the flag of your choice, but consider this: pie is not a trend and should be exempt from all this maniacal hype. It has been around since the Medieval Ages. Pie crust was invented as a way to transport meat, a hard, inedible shell to preserve it. It was the Tupperware of its time. Hundreds of years later the Pilgrims embraced pie — it travels well! — and eventually it evolved into something more edible, something fruity, flaky and delicious. But something in our perfection-striving human nature has caused us to force pie’s evolution even further. Now we compare recipes and exchange tips and argue — yes, argue — over whose pie is better. Can we all just relax about pie? And about cupcakes? And about basketball and religion and race? Can we stop predicting who’s going to win and who likes what better and whose recipe/team/religion is best? Please? Life is too short for such petty wars. All I am saying is….forgive the pun, but it does happen to be my trademarked slogan, “Give a piece a chance.” Any kind of piece, as long as it makes you feel good, and even smile.

And on that note, may I present a compromise, the best of both worlds. A recipe from Baking Bites for “Impossible Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes.” Happy baking…no matter what flavor, texture, or nutritional value you choose.