Food & Drink

The Great Pie Debate

Which Fall Pie Reigns Supreme?

By Kevin Gray ·
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Of everything that fall brings with it—cooler weather, changing leaves, playoff baseball—nothing excites us quite like pie.

So our very own Eric Twardzik (a pumpkin man) and Kevin Gray (apple all the way) went head-to-head in a heated battle to determine seasonal pie dominance.

And so, the debate:

Kevin Gray: Apple pie is superior to pumpkin. You know that saying, “As American as apple pie?” Don’t be un-American.

Eric Twardzik: But apple pie feels generic. It’s something people only hear about in Don McLean songs or ’90s coming-of-age comedies. I’ve had apple pie maybe five times in my life. Pumpkin pie is special. And it has an annual, ceremonial peg.

KG: I think it’s partly the ceremony I hate. Why does everyone have to serve pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving? It feels forced. Not like a treat, but more like a lazy dessert people think they’re supposed to make.

ET: I disagree. That keeps it special. I dream about the Thanksgiving pumpkin pie all year. It’s like waiting for Christmas when you’re a kid. And the everyday availability of mediocre apple pies cheapens its brand. The first thing I think of now are those bastardized Hot Pocket apple pies at McDonald’s.

KG: I hope those Hot Pocket apple pies are not part of the five you’ve eaten in your life. Like with anything else, it’s all about the quality. A fresh apple pie made with real apples is a beautiful thing to behold. A McDonald’s apple pie isn’t. Same goes with pumpkin pies. Most store-bought versions just aren’t good.

ET: Serious question: Is apple pie a Texas thing?

KG: I don’t think so. I grew up in Denver with parents from Chicago. I’m pretty sure it’s just an American thing. You live in Boston, where apple picking is a popular pastime. Are apple pies not popular up there?

ET: Honestly... not really. This is solidly pumpkin pie territory. My other big exposure to pie eating has been summers in Maine, where it’s all about blueberry pie.

And pumpkin pie is what I grew up with. My mother, grandmother and aunt all make excellent versions.

KG: There’s something about the texture I don’t like. Namely, that it has no texture. I wish there was something to bite into. Like an apple, for instance.

ET: Okay, I disagree with that wholeheartedly. Pumpkin pies have delicious, creamy, smooth texture. Much more than a fruit slowly dissolving in your mouth.

KG: Have you ever had a real, fresh-baked apple pie? Because what you’re describing sounds like a store-bought version without good, crisp fruit.

ET: I have. The majority of mine were not homemade, and I’ll admit that may make me biased. But I’ve had the real, homemade thing and it still doesn’t measure up to pumpkin.

KG: Are you a fan of pumpkin in general? Beers, breads, etc.

ET: Yes. I enjoy my pumpkin beer. And pumpkin cider.

KG: What about other apple foods?

ET: I like apples, in general. I’m also a big fan of apple cider. I’m also down for apple cobblers at any time. So I assure you that I have no apple bias.

KG: I enjoy all of those apple things you just said. Maybe I’m just not a big pumpkin guy in general. I don’t like pumpkin beer much. Though I do love pumpkin bread.

How do you feel about adding ice cream to your pie? Because with apple, it’s a real delight.

ET: Apple pie with ice cream is fantastic. But in a way that only highlights its weakness. Pumpkin pie needs no ice cream to bring out its wonderfulness. Just squeeze a little canned whipped cream on top and you’re golden.

KG: Ha. If the addition of ice cream to apple pie shows weakness, what does the addition of canned whipped cream to pumpkin pie show?

ET: That’s a light finishing touch. It’s not a heavy-duty topping like ice cream. That’s the dessert equivalent of drawn butter.

KG: Perhaps. But I think it just reconfirms my feeling that pumpkin pie is too sweet. The reason ice cream works with apple pie is because it’s not too sweet to begin with, so it can stand up to some ice cream.

ET: There’s another topic we aren’t discussing here. Do you always have Thanksgiving in Texas?

KG: No. I get around.

ET: Do you usually spend it in an autumnal climate?

KG: Yes. Except for one in Singapore. But there I had no pie. Mostly noodles.

ET: Okay, I was going to argue that part of pumpkin pie’s appeal over apple is the climate you have it in. But it looks like that isn’t going to work here.

KG: I know what you mean though. Pumpkins are very autumnal and pumpkin foods do have a cozy element to them. But even though apples are year-round foods, I still equate apple pies with fall holidays and fall apple picking. That said, you could bring an apple pie to a Fourth of July party. No one’s bringing a pumpkin pie to that same party.

ET: This is true. Though that brings me back to the argument that they are rarer birds and thus more greatly appreciated.

KG: They do have the rare factor working for them.

All right, well, there’s no doubt I’ll come face to face with pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, so your words have inspired me to give it another shot. I mean, at the end of the day, it’s still pie. And pie is great.

ET: That last point is one I’ll wholeheartedly agree on. [Handshake.]

Kevin Gray lives in Texas. He likes whiskey, weekends and hammocks, often at the same time.

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