The 2017 Pie Challenge

When you finish reading this post, you’ll be sorry you didn’t have pie for breakfast, for pie is one of the world’s best breakfasts. This will replace today’s Reader’s Wildlife Photo post.

Yesterday, as I do every year when I’m in town, I went to the South Side Pie Challenge: a contest in which bakers young and old enter their best pies, with proceeds (and the pies!) going to feed the hungry on Chicago’s South Side. First there are a few hours in which judges sample all the pies (what a great job!), and then the public is admitted at 2 p.m. to buy slices. There are dozens and dozens of them: fruit pies, nut pies, cream pies, pumpkin and sweet potato pies, and so on. For $10 you can buy four pieces of pie (or $3 each, but who can limit themselves to a single slice?), so I laid down my sawbuck and went to town.

First I scouted the pies to determine which four I was going to purchase. It was tough! Here are some entries (please excuse the fuzziness; I was hand-holding my camera under ambient light for most of these, with a shutter speed of 1/8 second).

The scene, with pies arranged by type (fruit pies in foreground, nut pies to left, cream pies at rear, and so on):

Pecan caramel pumpkin pie:

“The Panda” (I don’t know what was in it):

“Sweetie pie” (looks like a mixture of nuts, caramel, and apples):

Chocolate-painted bottom coconut pie:

Chocolate ganache peanut butter pie (the removed slice was MINE):

“Key” Lime pie (made with Persian limes): I had a piece of this, too, and it was spectacular:

Mixed berry pie:

Pecan pie:

Backdoor sweet potato pie (don’t ask), with dragons:

And an American classic: apple pie, this one called “Ratchford apple pie”

And the grand prize winner as well as sectional prize winner in fruit pies: Senior Lecturer in Biology Chris Andrews, who used to help teach our Ecology & Evolution course. I’m so pleased she won the overall prize with her cranberry pie, and I’m sad I didn’t try it. But I’ve asked her to reserve an entire pie for me next year!

My four pieces: chocolate peanut butter pie, chocolate pecan pie, “Key” lime pie, and banana cream pie (I eschewed fruit pies this year):



  1. Posted November 6, 2017 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    I’m drooling!

  2. Curt Nelson
    Posted November 6, 2017 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    I wish I could go to this and that the recipe for the winning cranberry pie was available.

    The pieces look big — they’re whole pieces, not half, as I thought they might be. I’d like to try 8 half pieces.

    You must be full after four pieces.

    • Posted November 6, 2017 at 8:05 am | Permalink

      I ate three on Saturday (with a break before the third), and the lime pie on Sunday for breakfast.

      • Curt Nelson
        Posted November 6, 2017 at 8:18 am | Permalink

        It’s good to have fruit at breakfast.

  3. Randall Schenck
    Posted November 6, 2017 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    That banana cream should be mine…

  4. Warren Bailey
    Posted November 6, 2017 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    I think that this page should have an occasional Readers Pie Day!

    • dabertini
      Posted November 6, 2017 at 9:11 am | Permalink

      I would definitely be into that provided we are not breaking Da Roolz!

    • Posted November 6, 2017 at 9:14 am | Permalink

      How would that work?

      • Linda Calhoun
        Posted November 6, 2017 at 10:40 am | Permalink

        We could submit pictures of our pies instead of our cats.


        • claudia baker
          Posted November 6, 2017 at 11:01 am | Permalink

          Or, our cat sitting beside the pie?

      • BJ
        Posted November 8, 2017 at 8:22 am | Permalink

        Are you telling me that all the times I’ve tried to fax you pies, they haven’t been going through?!?

    • Posted November 7, 2017 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

      I thought we already recognized March 14.

  5. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted November 6, 2017 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    Oh, man. I got an apple pie just sitting there at home, and I am too far away at work right now. Otherwise it would be preyed upon.

    My pie weaknesses include pecan, key lime, and cheesecake. I joke that i married my wife because her cheesecake had opened my mind to whole new worlds.
    I would really like to try that sweet potato pie. Just curious…

  6. David Coxill
    Posted November 6, 2017 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    Wot no meat pies?

    • Posted November 6, 2017 at 9:15 am | Permalink

      This is America, not the UK!

      • David Coxill
        Posted November 7, 2017 at 8:47 am | Permalink

        You mean you don’t have meat pies in the US ,the horror ,the horror .

        I read Bill Brysons The Lost Continent a few weeks ago ,he said Cornish miners who removed themselves to America ,took Cornish Pasties with them and their descendants still make them ,somewhere in the state of Michigan.

        Nothing to do with the topic ,but he mentioned the Shriners ,they seem a jolly group of A holes .

      • Posted November 8, 2017 at 11:40 am | Permalink

        Any folks from Louisiana or know about their cuisine? I think the Acadiens have a meat pie tradition (the Quebecois do), and maybe they brought it during the ethnic cleansing etc.

  7. DTaylor
    Posted November 6, 2017 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    There is a heaven! And you caught it on camera!

  8. Mark Joseph
    Posted November 6, 2017 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    A worthy cause, a worthy competition, a worthy report.

    Still, one question lingers. Why is this not held on Pi Day?

  9. Ken Kukec
    Posted November 6, 2017 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    There’s never any need to make Key Lime pie from Persian limes. If you can’t get the real deal fresh, Nellie & Joe’s puts out a pretty good product.

  10. Ken Kukec
    Posted November 6, 2017 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    Hmmm … what seems to be missing here?

    Can she make a cherry pie,
    Jerry Boy, Jerry Boy?
    Can she make a cherry pie,
    Charming Jerry?

    • darrelle
      Posted November 6, 2017 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

      My wife makes a truly excellent cherry pie, but just the other day I came across an awesome idea that I can’t believe I didn’t think of already. A cherry bourbon pie. I am definitely going to experiment with this.

      Or an apple and Apple Jack* pie?

      *An excellent concoction made by the oldest (at least one of) distillers in the US and they’ve been making it for hundreds of years. Reminds me, at this time of year I usually pick up a bottle and keep it in the freezer. My wife uses it in her pie crusts but I like to drink it.

  11. Mark R.
    Posted November 6, 2017 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    Good pie choices; I’m a real sucker for any variation of peanut-butter pie.

    I’ve never had a cranberry pie, but I imagine the tartness would be lovely…perhaps a little tarter than a sour-cherry pie.

  12. busterggi
    Posted November 6, 2017 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    Cruel & inhuman punishment…

  13. Posted November 6, 2017 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    So good that I now want pie for lunch.

    My fondest pie memory is that of tasting my friend Colleen Johnson’s Pear Pie which was spiced with black pepper of all things. Just enough to taste but not enough to make it hot. She is a professional chef who recently was in charge of baking a huge cake for the Dalai Lama’s visit to Orange County, California.

    • darrelle
      Posted November 6, 2017 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

      I once made a pear & Gorgonzola pie. I thought it was okay but no one else liked it!

  14. Posted November 6, 2017 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    I hates looking at this page!

  15. Posted November 6, 2017 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    Amen to the pie for breakfast strategy! When our extended family has a big get-together, I always check out the pies first, making sure that I can get some of my favorites – Old Fashioned Cream, Red Raspberry [either straight berry or in a cream], and Strawberry-Rhubarb top my list.

  16. Mobius
    Posted November 6, 2017 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    My mother made some very good pies, and apple pie was one of the family’s favorites. When I would come home from college, my mother would bake me an apple pie to take back with me. Unfortunately, it became generally known I would be returning with this wonderful pie and it would all be consumed shortly after I got back.

    My mother then started sending TWO pies back with me. Having learned my lesson, I would distract the crowd with the first pie, then sneak the second in and save it for my own enjoyment.

  17. Hempenstein
    Posted November 6, 2017 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    I’m not particularly big on cranberries, but I took pity on a case of them that my pal at an urban meat market bought. Urban folks do not buy fresh cranberries. So a sorta foodie friend and I tried to make a cranberry pie, and the first attempt, winging it, was superb.

    We used cranberries, a relatively equal amount of sliced fresh apples, some diced figs, and a few white raisins. You can fiddle with the proportions of course, but it was superb.

  18. BJq=
    Posted November 7, 2017 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    This is KILLING ME. I wish I was at this event. I would eat all the pies. Every one of them.

    Especially the “Pecan caramel pumpkin pie.” That combines two of my three favorite pies: pecan, pumpkin, and coconut custard. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because I get to have all three of my favorite pies!

    But, of course, Thanksgiving is a celebration of white supremacy, and we should all be ashamed to celebrate it 😛

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