amer-pieAmerican Pie: Slices of Life (and Pie) From America’s Back Roads


Pascale Le Draoulec

Published by Perennial, 2002


What began as a lark for the author and a friend, turned into a true quest, in this case, a quest for pie. Pascale Le Draoulec has three weeks to move from San Francisco to a new job in New York. She wants to see and meet “real America” and decides to drive the back roads to do it. But she needs a “peg” to draw her from town to town. As a food writer she picks pie. As she sees it, this vintage dessert is a typical example of something uniquely American.

Following suggestions from friends and others she meets along the way, she discovers unusual pies and interesting people. Pascale soon learns that “real” people are warm and welcoming when it comes to the subject of pie. Strangers, for the most part, are very willing to share their pie recipes, history of the pie, their own history, and slices of pie. Even people who are normally guarded, drop their hesitation and open up to share their pie memories. This book is filled with delightful stories of ordinary people.

Almost everyone the author meets has an opinion about the Best Pie Ever. The opinions vary from region to region. There is Shoofly Pie in Pennsylvania, Sweet Potato Pie in the south, Cherry Pie in Michigan, and so forth. A great plus is that pie bakers willingly share their secrets to a flaky crust or a fluffy meringues or a tart but sweet berry pie. If you are a pie baker or aspire to be one, there is plenty of help in this book – both practical and inspirational.      

I’ve made lots of pies in my life but this book has pies I’ve never heard of: Olallieberry, Jefferson Davis, Funeral, Prune, Turtle, and Coffee Toffee Pie. There are recipes for more common pies such as banana cream, coconut cream, lemon meringue and lots of good fruit pies. Also you will find tips and recipes for making a variety of pie crusts. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have my pie crust recipe. One of these days I will share that with you. (Mine really is the best crust ever.)   

The book is also a travel journal of sorts. There are references to some roads and highways along with good descriptions of the countryside. There is also a little bit of philosophy, lots of quotes about pie and some pie history. The author’s writing style is light and fun. She’s a master of the descriptive phrase which is very useful when writing about food, travel, and people.

My standard pie book has always been the Farm Journal’s Complete Pie Book (1965) with it’s 700 recipes. American Pie only has 35 to 40 pie recipes but is a lot more fun to read. After all, how many pie recipes does one need? 

I read this book as part of the Books About Food Challenge. If you are interested, check the challenge here.