A sad fact of aging is that we often lose interest in what enchanted us as a child. Old stumps and rocks degrade from being fairy rings into compost. Beloved security blankets smell, fade, and disintegrate in waterlogged boxes. Holidays morph from magical, joys events into financial burdens and family dramas. Unless we have another person to work for, we simply can’t maintain the level of excitement and hope needed to keep these things alive. Which is why we make new traditions.
While many people love Christmas, Easter, and the Fourth of July, my favorite holiday happens on March 14th. Every January when I buy a new calendar, I flip right to it and mark it with stars and exclamation points. For weeks in advance, I anticipate it by scanning my favorite food blogs and cookbooks. Without fail, I bake at least one pie extravagantly decorated. Why? Because it’s Pi(e) Day.
Pi(e) Day is the magical day of the year where we celebrate pie (and, in theory, math). Since Americans write March 14th as 3/14, we take the opportunity to celebrate pi/pie (3.14). Morning talk shows will share store bought pies with their co-hosts while social media runs rampant with pie, pi, Supernatural, and Pushing Daisies .jpegs and .gifs. Many of our favorite bakers and cooks will create something special, either pushing the limits of what can be considered pie or showing off their professional grade decorating skills.
Unfortunately, I’m not a professional baker, and my decorating skills lack finesse. I don’t usually have the time to spend weeks tinkering with my apple pie recipe, filling the apartment with the sizzle of caramelizing apples and the tang of spices. Nor am I particularly fond of math. And yet, this is my favorite holiday.
Pi(e) Day is my opportunity to carve out a ritual that is wholly mine. My family never celebrated it (or knew about it) when I was a kid, so it’s free of my dad swearing at some toy he can’t put together on Christmas morning or him slamming out of the house on Thanksgiving because dinner’s not ready when he wants it. It’s not even something that anyone expects me to celebrate, so there’s no societal pressure over buying gifts, decorating, or sending out cards. In fact, Pi(e) Day consistently surprises my friends, family, and coworkers every year, making my celebration of it a delightful gift for all.
I love everything about Pi(e) Day. It’s secular and friends/singles-orientated. It prioritizes my very favorite dessert. It encourages creativity and sharing. It neither creates nor demands indebtedness. It just makes people happy.
So as long as I’m able, I plan on celebrating Pi(e) Day. With any luck, I will be able to grow it into something truly outlandish, replete with multiple pies, parties, cards, and gifts. Because the day isn’t really about pie or math. It’s about finding an opportunity to celebrate and treat yourself and those around you. It’s about contributing a little more joy into the world. And that’s all I want my holidays to do.
This year for Pi(e) Day, I made three pies, one for me, my sister, and my girlfriend. I chose an Apple Streusel Tart (Apple pie is my favorite.), my girlfriend chose a Raspberry Mascarpone Tart, and my sister chose the Cherry Cheesecake Hand Pies (or, as I like to call them, Steven Bombs). Below are a few pictures and a copy of the recipes I used. I took all the recipes from Pies and Tarts by Kristina Petersen Migoya (2014, The Culinary Institute of America). If you’re looking for a great pie cookbook, I definitely recommend it! It has a ton of diverse, delicious recipes with a range of skill levels from amateur to professional (And the photographs by Ben Fink are gorgeous!).
Of the three pies, I thought the Cherry Cheesecake Hand Pies were the most delicious. They were so easy to eat in one sitting and so good. The sweetened cream cheese filling was a wonderful counterpoint to the slightly tarter taste of the cherries. All of us gobbled them up so fast that we never got to share them!
The Apple Streusel Tart was also quite good. I had no idea that vanilla bean and Golden Delicious apples paired so well together. The vanilla brought out the apples’ natural sweetness, making sugar all but unnecessary. I’m not sure I’ll ever go back to Granny Smiths!
However, I didn’t really care for the Raspberry Mascarpone Tart. I don’t think I mixed the mascarpone well so it separated, creating a lumpy texture. It was also unexpectedly tart, and I don’t think the lemon and honey mixed together well (I may have gotten the wrong kind of honey.). It’s a complex bouquet that works for those who love tart and honey but that most people seem to think is weird. I might try it again just because I’m a perfectionist, but I’m not really looking forward to it (which is a shame because I love mascarpone).