Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Slice of Nostalgia

If pie isn’t the poster child for nostalgia, I don’t know what would be. Pie represents the very definition of nostalgia: a longing for the past, often in idealized form. Pie is about mom, and holidays, and socials, and comfort. My dad likes to tell a story about when he would take the train back and forth from college in St. Louis and home in Tacoma. He would have a big ol’ slice of apple pie in the dining car and back then the perfect compliment to apple pie was a slab of cheddar cheese. My dad always tells this story at Thanksgiving, as he cuts a slice of cheddar to go with his apple pie. Lots of people have romanticized stories about pie and I suspect that is a big part of why we love pie so much.

I love this photo for a lot of reasons. I am a big fan of the automat, although I have never actually been in one. To me it represents the anonymity of the big city. The automat was a place you could go, put a few coins in the vending slot and get a meal without dealing with wait staff or cashiers. Anonymous and efficient. But what is behind that sea of little vending windows? Pie, of course. Pie like mom used to make. A little slice of comfort to ease the workday troubles of the common man.

Portland used to have a fine establishment on NW 23rd called Quality Pie. QP was a great 50s style diner frequented by people from all walks of life. And I do mean ALL walks of life; high school kids, cops, drag queens, neighborhood folk and stoners. It was a great hang-out. My in-the-know friends took me there late one night when I was a very sheltered 19 year old just starting art school. I think they thought the clientèle would shock my small town sensibilities. I may have been small town, but I knew a great pie joint when I saw one. Small towns are all about great pie joints and the characters that inhabit them.

Big town or small town, one thing is universal - the comfort of pie. I think this bit that's a regular feature on Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion radio show sums it up:

It's at times like that, you want Beebopareebop Rhubarb Pie. Yes, nothing gets the taste of humiliation out of your mouth like Beebopareebop Rhubarb Pie.

But one little thing can revive a guy,
And that is home-made rhubarb pie.
Serve it up, nice and hot.
Maybe things aren't as bad as you thought.

Mama's little baby loves rhubarb, rhubarb,
Beebopareebop Rhubarb Pie.
Mama's little baby loves rhubarb, rhubarb,
Beebopareebop Rhubarb Pie.

(c) 1999 by Garrison Keillor


Anonymous said...

I just bought a book last night called "Killer Pies" - you ladies have inspired me to really take the pie thing to another level!

Radio Gretchen said...

Tricia: The siren-call of pie is irresistible. Looking forward to your pie-off entry.