Beneath the Crust of 'Humble Pie' For writer Anne Dimock, the iconic pie is much more than a dessert. She says a hearty, homemade pie can hold a family together through even the most difficult times. Her new book is called Humble Pie: Musings on What Lies Beneath the Crust.
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Beneath the Crust of 'Humble Pie'

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Beneath the Crust of 'Humble Pie'

Beneath the Crust of 'Humble Pie'

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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Michele Norris.

For the writer Anne Dimock, a pie is much, much more than merely a dessert. A daily dose of flaky crust filled with sugary fruit is as important--no, make that as essential to Dimock as brushing her teeth or getting a good night's rest. Dimock believes that a hearty and homemade pie can hold a family together, even in the most difficult times. She believes that you can divine something about a man's soul by watching the way he eats a slice of pie. Dimock is somewhat of an anthropologist about pie and its role in American culture. She shares her wit and wisdom and a heap of recipes in her new book called "Humble Pie: Musings on What Lies Beneath the Crust."

This being the time of year where steaming pies grace the family table, we decided to give Dimock a call to get a primmer on pies.

So glad you could join us.

Ms. ANNE DIMOCK (Author, "Humble Pie"): Thank you. I'm glad to be here.

NORRIS: Why did you decide to write this book?

Ms. DIMOCK: Well, it started out as a series of columns I did for a community newspaper. And I just wanted to tackle the subject because it was part of me, my upbringing, and people responded so well to them that I just kept going with it.

NORRIS: What was it that you think touched people, the subject of pies?

Ms. DIMOCK: Well, I think pies got a very deep and profound meaning in a lot of people's lives. And pie's making a disappearance from our lives, and so when you can connect people to that memory, it really evokes a powerful connection for them. I think it speaks to our longing for family, for some closeness and togetherness and perhaps innocence.

NORRIS: In the forward of the book, you write that you wanted people to understand the generosity of pie. What did you mean by that?

Ms. DIMOCK: Well, making a pie is a very generous gesture. My mother, for example--we made a hundred apple pies every year. Half of them were reserved for our family, but the other half made their way to church suppers, other families who were having an illness in the family, to funerals, to covered-dish suppers, things like that.

NORRIS: One hundred pies a year.

Ms. DIMOCK: Yeah. Yeah.

NORRIS: That's quite a lot of pie. You gotta explain that.

Ms. DIMOCK: Well, we had four apple trees in the back yard where I grew up, and five kids and a grandmother in the family, so we were destined to eat a lot of apples. My father was a big fan of pie and my mother knew how to make them, so there we were pealing apples in the kitchen every August. And with five kids, my mother had enough helpers to actually do this. But that's how I learned all about pies, was making them.

NORRIS: Anne, one of the more intriguing chapters in your book is called Pie as a Feminist Tool...

Ms. DIMOCK: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NORRIS: ...and in this chapter, you argue that, `No matter how far we've come in society, we'll always sort of carry around this baggage of women who know how to make pies and men who know how to eat them.'

Ms. DIMOCK: That's right.

NORRIS: And then you say that there's also sort of a dirty secret behind all this. I wonder...

Ms. DIMOCK: Yes.

NORRIS: ...if you could read from that chapter. It's on Page 96.

Ms. DIMOCK: Sure. (Reading) `Then there's the side you don't see. We don't want you to; it's our little secret. There's a lot more going on with the women making most of the world's pies than domestic harmony or saintly acts of sacrifice. There's power. It's the same power exercised by any group that must live with another group more numerous or powerful. It's a power that comes from quiet observation and deep knowledge about your competition. It is very useful to know everything about people who hold power over you, and pie is an important tool for revealing the truth about the person eating it.'

NORRIS: So pie reveals something about the person eating it, you say.

Ms. DIMOCK: Yes. Yes.

NORRIS: You argue that you can watch someone, particularly a man, eat a piece of pie, and you can learn crucial things about him.

Ms. DIMOCK: Yes.

NORRIS: How do you decipher those?

Ms. DIMOCK: Well, there's a whole lexicon in there, and I give you a few of the things to look for, like here's one I mention. (Reading) `Is he generous of nature? Look at how he cuts the pie. How large are the bites? Not very? That's good.'

NORRIS: And you say that someone who digs out the filling...

Ms. DIMOCK: Yes.

NORRIS: see something there. What does that mean?

Ms. DIMOCK: Digging out the filling reveals a propensity to lie.

NORRIS: Now how do you know that? By experience or...

Ms. DIMOCK: Oh, say experience, yes.

NORRIS: It must be very interesting to have dessert at your table.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NORRIS: How is it that you came to be so passionate about pie?

Ms. DIMOCK: Yeah. Oh! Well, I think just by writing about it and just taking this further than anyone has ever done before. And, you know, I how know to make a great pie, and it's a lost art. So I do feel some importance in reviving this.

NORRIS: I have to tell you, I'm a straight-up fool for pie. I love pie, and I miss it. And I pie shops, and I miss those sort of rotating pie dishes...

Ms. DIMOCK: Yes. Yes.

NORRIS: ...that you used to see in some of the pie shops. What's it going to take to bring pie back to the dinner table?

Ms. DIMOCK: Well, I think that it really comes down to three steps, but the first one is remembering. You have to remember what pie was and the quality of that pie, and then you have to demand that pie wherever you go. And then you have to learn how to make the pie. Demanding it just isn't enough. I mean, we need more pie-makers out there.

NORRIS: Anne Dimock, happy Thanksgiving and happy baking.

Ms. DIMOCK: Thank you. Good pies to you.

NORRIS: Anne Dimock. Her new book is called "Humble Pie: Musings on What Lies Beneath the Crust."

SIEGEL: Anne Dimock's recipe for Thanksgiving pie with cranberries, apples and cinnamon and an excerpt from her book are at

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