The Most Popular Pie: A Study

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The pie has been one of America’s, and the world’s, most loved desserts of all time.  The diverse amounts of flavors that the pie offers the home cook is unrivaled by any other dessert.  Naturally, this post looks into the most popular pies of the 20th century, and tries to identify some of the reasons for the ups and downs.

The first thing to catch my eye after looking at this graph was that apple pie was on top for virtually the entire century.  Additionally, if you separate the “flavor” adjectives (apple, pumpkin, lemon, and blueberry) from the others (economic, humble, whole, a, inch, and cap), you’ll see that the flavor pies follow a very similar trend.  Almost like clockwork, the flavors (most notable of being apple and lemon) begin heading upwards in popularity in 1930 and peak around 1944.  I don’t think that it is a coincidence that this is the exact same time period used to describe the Great Depression.  The depression left many people poor and hungry, so they resorted to improvising.  After looking around for some depression era recipes, I’ve found that it was very common during the time to fake a pie crust with ritz crackers, resulting in a cheaper, yet still delicious baked pastry.  After the peak in 1944 however, the flavors bottomed out in 1965 until they began to plateau to the position they are in today.  The decline could be attributed to the culture becoming more experimental after the war.  Americans were finally able to afford a larger variety of food, so naturally what was popular at the time diminished.

Pie will always be an ubiquitously loved dessert.  It has been for the past centuries, and the future only holds more ups and downs for the delicious pastry.

4 thoughts on “The Most Popular Pie: A Study”

  1. The idea that the pie terms spiked during the Great Depression surprised me. I would have expected the amount of pies made to have decreased as to not reduce the nutrition of the fruits and supplies used. They should have been focusing on making hearty foods instead of pies. However, I could understand if the spike in the word used was because people were missing the sweet treat and because they were craving it, talked about it more.

    1. Yeah It is kind of surprising, especially when considering that this search is looking for the word inside of books. I wouldn’t imagine that many people were writing cookbooks for hard times as it seems a little out of place, but apparently that’s not the case.

  2. Apple pie seems to be a staple American desert, and its prevalence during the Great Depression is interesting, but didn’t exactly strike me as surprising, due to the fact that my great-grandparents made a variety of pies from farmables to survive during the 30’s in Alabama. Regardless of personal experience (and the possession of over 15 different pie recipes that were eked out in the 30’s), what caught my eye is how pie actually declined in popularity after WWII–I would’ve assumed that the war vets returning home would be demanding the deep dish delicacies as much as they would pizza. And while Google’s graphs can’t explain pie’s decline between the 40’s and 60’s, I would like to see evidence to equip me with a better understanding of the decline.

    1. Yeah I do agree that it shouldn’t be too much of a shock due to it being such an American dessert. As for the decline, a possibility for it occurring could be attributed to the soldiers learning about all sorts of new foods overseas, and preferring to introduce their households to said foods. That said, I think it would still make more sense for soldiers to want food to remind them of home so it does seem out of place.

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