Celebrating Pi Day with Peggy Jean’s Pies
Pi day is one of my favorite silly holidays. We take a mathematical concept like pi, and turn it into an excuse to celebrate dessert! For those who don’t know 3/14 is donated as Pi Day because the value of pi is 3.14 (or 3.1415728… to be exact). To celebrate Pi Day 2019, Savor interviewed Columbia’s favorite pie shop, Peggy Jean’s Pies, to talk about why pie is so awesome and how it brings people together.
Peggy Jean’s Pies (or PJP, as they like to call themselves) is having a special Pi Day promo: all pies are discounted to $3.14 all day! Woo hoo!
Savor: Why do you love making pies?
Rebecca Miller, owner of PJP: I speak for all of us at PJP when I say that we love baking pies because we are carrying on a tradition that is slowly being eroded by our culture of convenience. Our grandmothers and great grandmothers baked regularly because there were no ready made, machine prepared pies rolling out of factories. My grandmother Irene made pie dough every single day when my mom Jean was growing up. And then she would slice it into strips and bake in the oven and the kids would eat it after school for a snack. Our dough - the recipe created by Irene - is just flour, water, shortening, and salt....all ingredients easily accessible to a 1950's farmer's wife in southeast Missouri, regardless of budget. Every time I make a batch of our pie dough, I think about her and how something she probably didn't give much thought to doing is actually becoming a lost art in 21st century America.
Savor: What is the role of dessert in family meals or holidays?
PJP: I think for a lot of us, sharing a great dessert at a family dinner or holiday is a special way of celebrating togetherness. Dessert is fun. It certainly isn't needed to sustain our health or nutrition, but it is a special moment to share at the end of a lovely gathering. Bringing a dessert to someone's home to share is a kind act. Lingering over the dinner table with pie and a glass of wine and great conversation makes a memory. Even when people come to my house for dinner - even when a fair number of Team PJP came to my house for Thanksgiving - we had pie!
Savor: What types of pie are most popular with your customers?
PJP: We sell a lot of pie - and a lot of different flavors of pie. But I think the most popular pies are the ones that really resonate with a particular memory a customer has. For example, someone might remember picking gooseberries with his grandfather and then baking a pie together when he was young. Finding a homemade gooseberry pie really gives that memory a tangible moment. Or people who remember the early Peggy Jean's Pies from the 1990s will come in with very strong memories of going to the shop on a regular basis and having a certain pie, like French Silk, with a family member and they arrive at our current location wanting to know if the French Silk is the exact same as then. It is, of course, and that information makes them so happy.
Savor: What makes a pie “good”?
PJP: Well, there is a lot that goes into a good pie. First and foremost, you must have a good pie crust. Our recipe is a secret (but we do sell pie crust at our store!). We are also big believers in keeping the recipe as simple as possible. For example, our blueberry pie is just blueberries, flour, and sugar...nothing more, nothing less. That's just how Irene would have made it...and her mother as well, just about 100 years ago. Also, you have to be fairly patient when making a pie and you have to love doing it.
Savor: How is pie superior to other desserts like cakes or ice cream?
PJP: We love pie over other desserts because pie is such a unique experience. We hand flute all of the dough at our shop, so if I look at a pie, I can tell you exactly which employee of mine made it because of the fluting. That is such a special attribute in the fast, machine driven, make 100 pies a minute factory setting that a lot of people want to believe is pie. It isn't. Pie is local and human and a part of a celebration that a gallon of ice cream can't hope to be.