I was a history major in college, and I’ve always been a pie lover: The first sweet-tart strawberry-rhubarb pies of spring; meringue-topped lemon pies; towering cream pies; cherry pies that stain your face; and the MVPs of Thanksgiving: apple, pecan, and pumpkin.
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I didn’t know, for example, that it was a slice of cherry pie, ordered at a Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, that sparked the 1960 Greensboro sit-ins and ignited a wave of anti-segregation protests across the South, or that tofu “cream” pies were the weapon of choice of San Francisco’s late '90s leftist Biotic Baking Brigade.
In Sweet Land of Liberty, pie is used as a device to explore American history, from the first colonies to the advent of Hollywood. Each chapter of the book is dedicated to a particular type of pie and period in history; though it’s not a cookbook, each chapter concludes with a recipe, running the gamut from chiffon pie to quiche (which, yes, this book considers a pie).
Rossi (who baked her first pie at age 7 and says her favorite type of pie is Key lime) first began thinking about the intersection of food with social issues when she was a student at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. She wrote a capstone paper about the anthropology of pie in the South, which kicked off the research for this book.
And research she did, delving deep into pie arcana and finding threads that connected pie, in all its nostalgic glory, to feminism, religion, racism, movie stars, and more. The result is a fast-paced book that’s filled with surprising (and occasionally sad) revelations and humorous anecdotes that shed new light on both pie and American history.
And what better time to read it than right now, when pies are on everyone’s mind?
Order your copy of Sweet Land of Liberty: A History of America in 11 Pies, to dive deep in our nation's pastry past.
Cover photo (Apple Pie) by Kristin Teig; food styling by Liz Neily.