8 Forgotten Pie Recipes We Should Bring Back

iStock.com/slovegrove
iStock.com/slovegrove

Sometimes simpler is better. That’s certainly the case with these old-fashioned pies, which have been unjustly relegated to the back of the recipe box. Made from just a few basic ingredients, they still manage to be rich and full of flavor. In honor of National Pie Day, break out the apron and the rolling pin, and give them a try.

1. Buttermilk Chess Pie

The beauty of this pie is in its simplicity. Known as a “desperation pie” because it relies on just a few very basic ingredients—the only ingredients many cash-strapped farm families had back in the 19th and 20th centuries—the chess pie nevertheless manages to be decadent, with flour, sugar, eggs and butter coming together in just the right quantities. Adding in buttermilk along with some cocoa powder makes it even more satisfying. From there, you can customize it any number of ways—with lemons, pecans, even with citrus fruits.

2. Mincemeat Pie

iStock.com/karenlsmith

Mincemeat reaches all the way back to the 13th century, when Crusaders returned from the Holy Land with the three main spices: cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Cooks used them mainly as preservatives for fruit and meat, and found that combining everything together made for a tasty pie filling. Recent generations have done away with the “meat” part of mincemeat pie, though chefs swear on their grandmother’s grave that it’s the best version of the dish. For those put off by elk or venison or beef in their dessert, give former Gourmet editor Ruth Reichl’s found recipe a try.

3. Sugar Cream Pie

If you grew up in Indiana, there’s a good chance you're familiar with this, the official pie of the Hoosier State. The recipe comes from the Amish, who settled in Indiana in the 1800s, and it calls for heavy cream, milk and, of course, sugar. Like chess pie, this desperation pie has gone out of style in recent generations. But dutiful Hoosiers have kept it in their holiday rotations for years. Mixing brown with granulated sugar can deepen the flavor, while a cinnamon topping can spice things up a bit.

4. Shoofly pie

Molasses is the main ingredient in this pie, for which we can also thank the Amish (Pennsylvania Dutch, in this case). There are two types: “dry bottom” shoofly pie, which has the consistency of gingerbread, and “wet bottom,” which has a custard-like quality and comes topped with crumbs. There are a few theories about the name, the most convincing one being that the sweet molasses drew flies while pies were cooling, causing cooks to have to shoo them away. Alton Brown has a highly rated recipe for shoofly pie that includes brown sugar crumb topping. Give it a try—and keep the window closed.

5. Vinegar pie

Don’t be put off by the name of this pie, which combines the silky quality of a custard pie with the tartness of an apple pie. The use of apple cider vinegar was a way for 19th-century cooks to mimic the taste of the actual fruit, making this an early culinary hack. And while you won’t find it in most restaurants, it’s pretty simple to make at home. Try this recipe from Epicurious, or this one from Martha Stewart, and serve it up with a scoop of ice cream.

6. Marlborough pie

This New England specialty was once a staple in the region, where the plentiful supply of apples met with the custard pie recipes settlers had brought over from England. The name is thought to refer to the English town of Marlborough. Recently the pie has fallen out of favor in kitchens and restaurants, which is a shame since it combines two delicious pie elements—apples and custard—along with lemons and sherry wine. The taste, according to historian John T. Edge, author of Apple Pie: An American Story, carries “the tang of lemons, the silky musk of sherry, the base register of apples.” Yankee Magazine has a recipe that adds dashes of cinnamon and nutmeg to the mix.

7. Flapper pie

If the phrase “Canadian prairie pie” doesn’t pique your interest, then perhaps the graham cracker crust, the custard filling, or the meringue topping will. Pioneered by home cooks north of the border, flapper pie is another decadent dessert made from the most basic ingredients—namely eggs, sugar, cornstarch, and butter. The crust can be a bit tricky, but you can always opt for a premade version from the store. As far as a recipe goes, Canadian grandma Irene Hrechuk won’t steer you wrong.

8. Huckleberry pie

The hardest part about making this pie might be finding the title berries, which grow mainly in the Northwest and can only be found in the wild. Online sellers offer them frozen by the pound, which can be expensive. But with a uniquely tart taste, they’re definitely worth the investment. Pastry chef and author Greg Patent believes they’re one of the best baking berries around. Try his recipe for huckleberry pie, which he claims took him 20 years to perfect.

Wednesday’s Best Amazon Deals Include Computer Monitors, Plant-Based Protein Powder, and Blu-ray Sets

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Anti-Pasta: When Italian Futurists Tried to Ban Pasta in Italy

A pasta vendor in Naples during the late 19th or early 20th century.
A pasta vendor in Naples during the late 19th or early 20th century.
Carlo Brogi, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

While speaking at a multi-course banquet in Milan on November 15, 1930, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti presented his fellow Italians with an incendiary call to action. Pasta, he said, was a “passéist food” that “[deluded people] into thinking it [was] nutritious” and made them “heavy, brutish,” “skeptical, slow, [and] pessimistic.” As such, it should be abolished and replaced with rice.

So began an outrageous crusade against the country’s most beloved carbohydrate. Not only did Marinetti's movement elicit passionate reactions on both sides, but it also had some less-than-tenuous ties to Benito Mussolini's fascist regime.

Mr. Rice Guy

Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (center) and his fellow Italian Futurists in Paris in 1912.Proa, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Marinetti’s initial statement spread so widely because he himself loomed large over society at the time. His 1909 “Manifesto of Futurism” launched the Futurist movement, which championed a shift away from the slow, outmoded processes of the past and toward the sleek technologies of the future. Though originally specific to art, Futurism was a nationalist cause at heart—a way for the newly unified country to catch up to other world powers—and it aligned with Mussolini’s fledgling political campaign. In fact, the two men collaborated closely while establishing their respective political parties (Marinetti’s Fasci Politici Futuristi and Mussolini’s Fasci di Combattimento) as World War I came to a close. Marinetti had distanced himself from Mussolini by the early 1920s, but he still invoked Il Duce’s policies when they served his goals.

For the pasta prohibition, they did. To make Italy less reliant on imported wheat, Mussolini’s administration had started promoting rice—which was much easier to produce domestically—over pasta. In the late 1920s, he established the “National Rice Board” and even declared November 1 to be “National Rice Day.” As Philip McCouat writes for the Journal of Art History, the dictator never went so far as to ban macaroni, but citizens were already familiar with anti-pasta sentiment by the time Marinetti began his smear campaign.

On December 28, 1930, the Futurist followed up his dinner speech with the “Manifesto of Futurist Cooking,” co-written with the artist Luigi Colombo (known as “Fillìa”) and published in Turin’s Gazzetta del popolo. In it, they described pasta itself as an “absurd Italian gastronomic religion” and pasta lovers as being “shackled by its ball and chain like convicted lifers or [carrying] its ruins in their stomachs like archaeologists.”

In short, they believed that pasta weighed Italians down and prevented them from achieving any kind of greatness. The ultimate solution was for the government to replace all food with nutritional pills, powders, and other artificial substitutes, but until the chemists could create such innovations, the Futurists would settle for swapping out pasta with rice. “And remember too,” they wrote, “that the abolition of pasta will free Italy from expensive foreign wheat and promote the Italian rice industry.”

Starch Enemies and Allies

While Marinetti’s initial speech had incited a small uprising among Italians, his written manifesto gave the issue a global audience. “Fascist Writer, All Wound Up in Health Subject, Begs Countrymen to Swallow New Theory,” the Chicago Tribune summarized in an article titled “Italy May Down Spaghetti,” which hit newsstands just two days after Marinetti’s manifesto.

Smaller presses covered the bombshell, too. “No, signor. We beseech you, call off your holy war,” Ernest L. Meyer pontificated in Madison, Wisconsin’s The Capital Times. “Would you abolish macaroni and all its tunefully christened cousins—macaroncelli, foratini, maglietti, ditalini, vermicelli—and reduce Italians to the ugly dissonances of beans, cabbage, chops, chard, and chewing gum? Fie, signor, there is no poetry in your soul, and your palate lacks wit.”

Pasta drying in the streets of Naples in 1897.J.F. Jarvis, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division // No Known Restrictions on Publication

People living everywhere from France to Australia commented on the matter, but nowhere was the response more impassioned than in Italy. Women in the city of L’Aquila sent Marinetti a protest letter, and the mayor of Naples went so far as to proclaim that “the Angels in Paradise eat nothing but vermicelli with tomato sauce.” (Marinetti later retorted that this was simply proof of “the unappetizing monotony of Paradise and of the life of the Angels.”) But Futurism wasn’t unpopular, and the pasta ban had ardent advocates of its own. Italian writer Marco Ramperti, for example, lambasted the beloved repast in a highly imaginative op-ed.

“[Pasta] puffs out our cheeks like grotesque masks on a fountain, it stuffs our gullets as if we were Christmas turkeys, it ties up our insides with its flabby strings; it nails us to the chair, gorged and stupefied, apoplectic and gasping, with [a] sensation of uselessness …” he wrote. “Our thoughts wind round each other, get mixed up and tangled like the vermicelli we’ve taken in.”

The Movement Loses Steam

Marinetti collected the best testimonies from scientists, chefs, and literary firebrands like Ramperti and reproduced them in 1932’s La Cucina Futurista (“The Futurist Cookbook”), which also contained Futurist recipes and instructions for hosting various kinds of Futurist dinner parties. But the 1930s were an exceptionally tumultuous decade for the country—which faced the Great Depression, Adolf Hitler’s growing influence, a war with Ethiopia, the Spanish Civil War, and eventually World War II—and Italian citizens were focused less on what they were eating and more on simply eating.

Two Neapolitan boys eating plates of pasta, date unknown.Bain News Service, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division // No Known Restrictions on Publication

Furthermore, Futurism soon ran afoul of fascism. In 1937, Hitler decried modern art as “degenerate,” anti-nationalist, and somehow inherently Jewish. Though Marinetti spoke out against these associations, anti-Semitism had already infected Italy, and fascists started condemning the Futurist movement. Since Mussolini was courting Hitler as an ally, his regime’s ties to Futurism could easily have become a political liability. In 1939, when Marinetti published a fiery denial of Hitler’s accusations in a Futurist journal called Artecrazia, the government forced it to shutter.

So, by the 1940s, Marinetti was no longer spewing consistent vitriol against pasta, Il Duce was no longer supporting the Futurist movement, and the world at large was consumed with much greater threats than linguini-induced languor. And if Marinetti ever entertained fantasies about resurrecting the cause after the war, he never got the chance—he died of a heart attack in December 1944, just months before the deaths of both Mussolini and Hitler the following April.