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diss on piesKansas City Star. Got no exact date for this one, but it must needs antedate 1895, because that’s when author Eugene Field kicked the bucket at age 45. You probably remember Field best from such children’s rhymes as “Wynken, Blynken and Nod” and “The Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat,” but he also had some pretty deep thoughts on pies and the womanly makers of pies. I guess by now I don’t have to tell you what the climactic pie on his list will be.diss on pies 2

So here it’s the coconut pie rather than mince that’s associated with bad dreams. Interesting to note too that the range of acceptable colors for pumpkin pie is a spectrum between gold and purple. I’ve read somewhere before about pumpkins used to be as variegated a crop as apples or tomatoes, but then got standardized into its current homogeneous and orange condition. The notion of a Roman purple pumpkin pie strikes me as appealing.

diss on pies 3

Never had squash pie.

diss on pies4

This is actually quite naughty, if you think about it, what with the plums and the sweetmeats and the savory juices being qualities attributed to a woman in a family paper. But then suddenly our man forgets about sex and moves on to the real object of his passion:

diss on pies5

The alleged quotations from Dr. Johnson play upon these two originals:

“Whoever wishes to attain an English style, familiar but not coarse, and elegant but not ostentatious, must give his days and nights to the volumes of Addison.”

“Claret is the liquor for boys; port for men; but he who aspires to be a hero must drink brandy.”

Dunno much about Horace or what the original model for the lines here might be. Melynda, you got anything?


  1. That’s what I like about you / You know how to . . . lob me an easy one!

    It’s a silly re-imagining of Horace’s ode 1:38–in my Latin class it appeared under the title Persicos Odi–in which the poet abjures Persian refinements in his food in favor of plain Roman home cookin’. Field actually did a translation of it himself, which I append:

    “Boy, I detest the Persian pomp;
    I hate those linden-bark devices;
    And as for roses, holy Moses!
    They can’t be got at living prices!
    Myrtle is good enough for us —
    For you, as bearer of my flagon;
    For me, supine beneath this vine,
    Doing my best to get a jag on!”

  2. You are truly a woman of parts. I bet your pies are never gummy, oleaginous, or fluidistical as to the nether crust.

    I see–via –that goofing on Ode 1.38 used to be a minor literary industry unto itself. I liked this one, from 1929, by Keith Preston:

    I do not share the common craze
    For food with jazzy singers;
    Boy, tell me not of cabarets,
    Where the late loophound lingers.

    A glass of home brew cool and clear
    Wets down my home-cooked victuals;
    So long as I can have my beer,
    I’ll gladly miss the skittles.

  3. Custard is the nastiest d— pie there is. I wouldn’t make one for cash money.

    I suspect that 1.38 was so popular because it’s short and easy to translate, unlike, say, 2.16, which is a bit trickier, and more serious. 1.38 was certainly an exercise for every college Latinist well into the 40s.

    Which reminds that the ponderous imitation of Robert Burton (I suppose it *is* Burton, or some other Renaissance prose master?) that Field is performing in the column can be found in college yearbooks throughout the teens and twenties . . . did it take that long to percolate down to youthful stylists, do you suppose?

  4. >Custard is the nastiest d— pie there >is.

    I suppose that’s why they’re so lightly thrown.

    >did it take that long to percolate >down to youthful stylists, do you >suppose?

    I dunno from Burton, though I know what you mean about the prevalence of the style in through the ’20s. Then the crappy Mencken impressions take over.

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