Back Henry Ward Beecher, “Apple-Pie”

Henry Ward Beecher (1813– 1887)
From American Food Writing: An Anthology With Classic Recipes

American Homestead Autumn, hand-colored lithograph on wove paper by Currier & Ives, 1868–69.

Chances are that, this week, you or someone you know will be spending hours making pies for Thanksgiving. It’s a tradition going back two centuries, but for most of the 1800s it was a year-round American mania.

In 1854 French author Marie Fentenay was preparing to publish a book in Paris on American Homes. A correspondent in Europe for The New York Times got his hands on a few advance chapters and highlighted Fentenay’s continuous mockery of the Yankee palate, particularly such repeated taunts that “Americans can make no pastry but apple pie” and that if it weren’t for the French pastry cooks in New York, “Americans would not be to this day beyond apple pie.”

Three decades later British journalist George Augustus Sala struck a similarly sarcastic (but more conciliatory) note when he wrote about the “tyranny of pie” in the U.S. “The worst of this dreadful pie—be it of apple, of pumpkin, of mulberry, or of cranberry—is that it is so very nice.”

The Beecher family knew all about pie, and siblings Harriet, Catharine, and Henry all wrote about this American obsession. For our Story of the Week selection, we present an essay on “Apple-Pie” by Henry Ward Beecher, the most celebrated preacher of his day. And, for good measure, we’ve included his sister Catharine’s recipe for “An Excellent Apple Pie.” Bon appétit!

Read “Apple-Pie” by Henry Ward Beecher

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