A Love Letter To Pie

A love letter to pie, the dessert of the season

Vincent Price liked a shortening crust.

The debonair horror star also enjoyed art, slim mustaches and getting married, but for our immediate purposes, his pastry fixation is most relevant. Between films and radio teleplays, Price was a globetrotting gourmand and a home cook of such renown that he and Mary, his second wife (of three), co-penned A Treasury of Great Recipes in 1965, so there is a record of his favored technique.

In a chapter entitled "Frozen Assets," he outlined the Price family's assembly line method of rolling out enough dough for six two-crust pies (or 12 shells), which they would fill and freeze unbaked, remove from the dish, wrap and freeze again, "miraculously transforming us from cook and maître d'hôtel to host and hostess when we entertain."

While Price took care to note that the method cut down on the number of pie plates the couple would have in play at any given time, he did not apply the same economy of utility to the real estate taken up by a dozen pies. Maybe the Prices had a fancy rich-people pie-dedicated freezer out by the lanai. But we'll never know their life, except for the fact that it was jam-packed with shortening crust pies.

For the record, actress Jean Seberg also enjoyed a shortening crust for Midwestern Lemon Meringue Pie, actress and mental health advocate Patty Duke opted for lard in her rightfully dubbed Super Apple Pie, TV personality Art Linkletter nested Strawberry Cheese Pie in a graham-cracker crust and actor Jim Nabors was pretty laissez-faire about where his mama's pecan pie filling might lay.

This all goes to say that stars, man, they're just like us. "Us" in this case meaning people who aren't restaurant chefs and just really like some freakin' pie. (Though maybe not as much as the Prices.)

It's easy to get all precious and fetishistic about pie—and it can be well worth the effort. But on a major eating holiday, dessert is often a perfunctory measure at the end of a meal. "It's not Thanksgiving without pumpkin/apple/pecan pie!" someone will coo. The host feels obliged to bake (or buy) the pie of the gods, then later finds mostly uneaten slices tucked in random nooks around the room where the game was playing.

So not to shortchange your guests, but you can play a little fast and loose with the crust methodology on the big holiday. Under normal circumstances, scratch is ideal, but this week tends to get hectic. So if you end up purchasing a pre-baked pie shell, mazel tov and godspeed. Slather that sucker in whipped cream and no one will notice.

But once you've gotten through the big feast, chowed through mountains of leftovers and roused from your carb coma a few days later, you may want to carve out some time to enjoy a soulful, seasonal classic: Sweet Potato Pie (see the recipe). Tasting Table Food Editor Andy Baraghani goes for a butter-and-pecan crust that brings a satisfyingly crunchy contrast to a simply spiced, naturally sweet, smooth and creamy filling.

It freezes well, too; you might need to make more than one—and room in your freezer—to always have one on hand. That's just the Price you gotta pay for being a pie star.