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Omaha Sunday World, December 23, 1900. (Click on the small pictures above and they will magically embiggen.) Lately I’ve been thinking hard about how I can “give something back” in this life. I studied a while on assassinating Bono, but then a careful utilitarian calculus steered me instead in the direction of writing a panoramic book-length essay on the subject of mince pie. (U2 fans take note: Depending on how well the book does, I may well revisit the Bono project later.)

Anyway, mince pie dreams are definitely going to merit a chapter unto themselves. Lately I’ve been wondering how frequently the oneirogenic power of mince actually made itself felt. (Oneirogenic: generative of remarkable dreams. With luck, this word will soon enjoy household currency and I’ll be lighting my blunts with T-bills). I mean, if people ate mince all the time while never shutting up about how it causes nightmares, they probably experienced such effects pretty frequently.

For starters, you’d have the “full moon fallacy” operating at full steam. Cops and emergency room personnel do not take notice of quiet full moons, do remark the busy ones, and never even think to compare the latter with even busier nights when the moon is waxing gibbous. Therefore, cops and emergency room personnel all think they know to a certainty that the full moon stimulates violence and recklessness, but overlook the fact that the waxing gibbous moon actually has a far stronger tidal pull on the evil appetites of the dangerous classes.

Now me, I have nightmares practically every time I hit the pillow. A cameo by Freddy Krueger would be comedy relief against the hellscapes projected by my mind at “rest.” Next to my sleepy-time shit, Hieronymus Bosch is Thomas Kinkade. But maybe if I’d lived and dreamed within the mince pie weltanschauung, I’d be counting only those rapid-eye doozies that coincided with a prior intake of mince. Or maybe prior non-intake of mince would act as a limiting factor on my nightmares, such that I’d occasionally enjoy a non-hellish night of sleep.

Moreover, maybe a psychologically healthy person whose dream life didn’t consistently suck would be more inclined to have bad dreams after eating mince pie owing to the power of suggestion. The link between pie and nightmare might even have been strong enough to qualify as a culture bound syndrome like piblokto, amok , anorexia nervosa, koro, or Bonophobia.

And this, the socially constructed yet still very real oneirogenic power of mince pie may account for its abrupt disappearance from both America’s diet and collective memory. I’m proposing by way of thought experiment here that people were eating it all along primarily for entertainment’s sake, but abruptly no longer needed to do so once a certain social density of distraction had been achieved through the growth of the commercial media. Like, maybe by the time talking pictures and radio were up and running, people no longer felt the need to supercharge their dreams that way, and abruptly realized that it tasted like hair oil.

It’s just a thought. I have to go to bed now. [groan]


  1. Coincidentally, last night, while not sleeping, I was pondering dyspepsia, the scourge of the late 19th and early 20th century: brought on by hot biscuits and fried buckwheat cakes, poorly baked bread, welsh rarebit, and, of course, mince pie. Dyspepsia seems to have gone the way of the mince pie, to be replaced by gluten intolerance.

    Of course, if you look at the menus suggested in cookbooks of the period, it’s not surprising: a home ec text book of the period recommends this menu for an average family of four. For breakfast, baked apples, boiled hominy with milk and sugar, broiled sirloin, potatoes, muffins and butter, and coffee. Follow this with tomato soup, veal stew, more potatoes, bread and butter, apple dumplings and pudding sauce for dinner, and then a light supper of dried canned corned beef(?),
    still more potatoes, this time in the form of croquettes, biscuits and butter, and oranges.

    Mince pie would be a relief.

  2. Is dyspepsia actually gone? The word, sure, but not the condition. We call it heartburn and ask our doctors about Prilosec.

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