January 2023 Book Review | “Sweet Land of Liberty: the History of America in 11 Pies”
Whether you’re a life-long baker, a COVID-19 baking convert, or simply someone who eats baked goods—that should cover just about everyone—you’ll love “Sweet Land of Liberty: the History of America in 11 Pies” by Rossi Anastopoulo.
From the title, you might guess that Rossi Anastopoulo’s “Sweet Land of Liberty: the History of America in 11 Pies” is a baking book. Oh, but it is so much more than that! This delicious book—I read it in almost one sitting—looks at iconic pies woven into our long and complicated history as a country. After all, it was a slice of cherry pie, denied at the Woolworth’s lunch counter, which fed into the anti-segregation protests of the Civil Rights movement. In addition, the popularity of Jell-O pie in the 1950s illuminated gender roles and pressures on women in a modernizing society. “Housewives, prepare this simple pie so you can be ready with a delicious dessert when your husband gets home from a long day at the office!” There is also sweet potato pie, the pie first prepared by enslaved cooks for their owners, then later embraced as an iconic dessert by African Americans. You can even order a slice in the cafeteria at the Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC.
Pumpkin pie, molasses pie, chiffon pie, pecan pie, even “mock-apple pie” (something made with Ritz crackers instead of apples) are all served up to illustrate important American historical moments and movements. There is even a chapter about quiche. Remember that pie that “real men” did not eat in the 1980s? Anastopoulos has a lot to say about the controversial quiche statement, from the satirical book Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche. It embodies the growing anxiety following the rise of Feminism in the 1960s and 70s. Many men began questioning what it meant to be an American man. Quiche? Or, no quiche? The men in my life love quiche.
Each pie represents a fascinating and complicated piece of our shared history. The iconic American Apple Pie captivated me the most. The apple tree was not native to the American continent. What better expression of our American sensibility than the Apple Pie originally brought here by immigrants?
With a recipe included after each chapter, this book is an informative, funny, thoughtful and delicious food history for avid bakers, Covid baking converts and history buffs alike. Yum. You can find “Sweet Land of Liberty: the History of America in 11 Pies” at both the Summit County and Park City Libraries. This is Kirsten Nilsson with the Summit County Library.