Monday, April 2, 2007

Humble Pie, more heart than Peter Frampton

Since it has been argued that pigs in blankets are pie it occurs to me that other esoteric discussions about pie should neither be off limits.

To consider it "pie," humble pie requires a living, breathing definition of "pie" – and a whole lotta heart, I've come to find out. Let's explore.

In order for a gastronomic object to be pie, “the crust needs to undergo a physical change,” I’ve been told. Must the object be culinary? Must this change occur in an oven? Or can the crust be figurative crust, changing within one’s gut or one’s spirit? Must the crust even exist in a tangible form?

For argument’s sake: When one eats humble pie one’s public humiliation should aid one in undergoing some sort of change. But whether the humble pie in question is actually pie depends on whether the figurative pie gets into one’s heart and transforms its figurative crust. If one eats humble pie only to save face because one has been caught doing the wrong thing then one will not change. If one realizes one has made a mistake and in turn eats humble pie, it is possible that one’s heart, like that of the Grinch, could grow several sizes. Former: not pie. Latter: pie, arguably.

If a nourished, changed soul cannot be comfortably described as “changed crust” then allow me to posit that humble pie is TOO GOOD to be pie. Even though it is the humblest of pies.

The term we’ve come to know as “humble pie” did begin as an actual pie. “Humble,” meaning of course “lowly,” and “of lesser quality.” Humble pie was “made of the inferior parts of the deer,” according to Random House’s Word of the Day. Innards, hearts, etc. The parts were known as “humbles.” Hunters and later servants ate them up with a, er, spoon, I’m assuming.

What is a little contradictory, though, is that the word “humble” to describe the pie came originally from the Latin “lumbulus,” meaning “little loin” which later became, in bustling fourteenth century France, “numbles” or “nombles,” meaning “loin of beef, veal or venison.” The word did not originally mean the crap parts.

Later some Brit, dropping ‘is pronunciation of the “h” as many Brits are wont to do, asked for “a numble pie,” which sounded like “an umble pie.” The whole thing eventually morphed into “humble pie” nodding to the connection between the lowly quality of the ingredients and the definition of the then modern-day definition of “humble.”

Many British of course continue to fancy the business of linguistic connections, what with their wild Cockney rhyming slang. In fact, “strawberry tart” is slang for “heart.” And “Isle of Skye” is slang for “pie.” Could one ask for a “strawberry tart Isle of Skye” and receive a pie full of organ meat? I don’t know – I didn’t go into Burger King.

As an aside, writer/chef extraordinaire Anthony Bourdain would have one believe that the lowliest parts of the animal are often the most delicious. They have to be, because it has always been more difficult to make the less expensive parts taste delicious and so innards and the like have had a long and evolving seasoned relationship with humans putting tremendous care into making them taste good. (Whereas something as expensive as beef tenderloin is, while expensive as heck, virtually flavorless because of its lack of fat. What is, tenderloin, really, other than an expensive object to dip into béarnaise?)

But I digress. Pie. Right.

Decree: While I believe that naming and colloquy are very important in the classification of pie (regardless of whether Wikipedia neglects to mention it), I must say that the band, Humble Pie, is not a pie. I believe (and you do not have to agree) that in order to be considered at least loosely a pie, even if cake-like, the object in question must not only be called pie but must also be loosely shaped like the most common pie-shape of the time (right now we're in The Round Pie Time). While the band, Humble Pie, is called “Pie” it is not in a round shape. Though, it could be argued that the living members of the band are rounder now than during the height of their popularity and so are in some ways closer to being actual pie than they were. Hell, their crust has also certainly changed over the years.