In Praise of Pies
From Grant Smithies, a New Zealand music journalist, columnist, vinyl collector and pie-eater.
The meat pie is a gift from God. No, really. It is. The pie was brought to Earth by angels. Many years ago, while taking a break from smiting unbelievers and listening to Creed, the good Lord noticed some of the flavourless crap his subjects were eating, and he was troubled.
A deity of decisive action, he got busy at his mighty drawing board and invented the meat pie. Ingredient-wise, the Big Guy was right on the money. Light, buttery pastry. Rich gravy. Tender chunks of delicious meat. Yes, yes, and yes. What’s not to like?
The pie was immediately embraced by the grateful populace of New Zealand, where it rapidly became an object of worship: an edible sacrament, a prayer wrapped in pastry.
These days, its primacy as a protein-packed portable meal is unsurpassed in this South Pacific paradise, where it is revered as the ultimate comfort food, a peerless lunch-on-the-run, an unimproveable slab of succulent soul food you can eat anywhere, at any time, even while driving your car.
Ask any sensible new Zealander and they will tell you: the meat pie is the perfect delivery mechanism for pleasure. There’s no question that it is the most appropriate food to partake of before, after or during any significant occasion, and between-times, too.
The national affection for pies is such that bakeries all over New Zealand compete to make the best ones, which is good news for the hungry traveller. Whenever I leave home during the holidays, I sample the pies of exotic locales. I have savoured Jimmy’s Pies in Roxburgh, where they are made, and bloody good they were too. I once wolfed down a famous McGregors mutton pie in Wanaka and loved it so much, I had a couple more in Dunedin. I once burnt my over-eager tongue on a Ponsonby Pie in Auckland.
Just last week, I sat down with a pint of organic pilsner and a yak pie from excellent Nelson pie emporium Ka Pie. I can tell you that this particular yak did not die in vain. And just down the road is My Pie, which produces a cornucopia of fancy pies, including wild venison and red wine pies, minted lamb and pea pies, wild pork and cider pies, and vegetarian pies featuring blue cheese, caramelised balsamic onions and roasted kumera.
My point is, a pie connoisseur is better served in New Zealand than any other nation on Earth, which makes us extremely fussy pie eaters when abroad. Even so, a steady stream of New Zealanders trickle back home after sojourns in New York, amazed to have discovered pies in the heart of an American metropolis that are as good as those they grew up on in their homeland.
The Dub Pie is amazing!, these people proclaim to anyone who’ll listen. The Dub Pie is a pie that has what it takes. It has muscle, it has moxie, it has soul. Just like the best New Zealand pies, New York City’s Dub Pie doesn’t muck around - just hits you off with more flavour and flake than you can imagine.
These hopelessly jetlagged wretches stagger off incoming planes, glassy-eyed, smitten, gabbling like fools. Every now and then someone’s arrested, trying to smuggle Dub Pies back into New Zealand, which roughly equates to smuggling bagels into New York, beignets into New Orleans, croissants into Paris. “Why on Earth did you do it?” ask the astounded customs agents. “We already have the world’s best pies right here!”
No, no, reply the pie smugglers. You don’t understand. There are pies, and then there are PIES, and currently, the pie to beat is being served offshore, at Down Under Bakery in New York City. Steak and onion, steak and mushroom, steak and cheese, steak mince, shepherd’s pie, chicken pot pie, curried vegetable, spicy apple - there are just so many ways to die with pie-eyed pleasure.
Assuming you’re sufficiently righteous to get through the pearly gates, Dub Pies are the gourmet pies you’d find in God’s own pie warmer. If these returning pie connoisseurs are to be believed, when we finally die and ascend to Heaven, it’s Dub Pie pastry crumbs we’ll find scattered through God’s bushy beard.