November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Pie: a great moral crusade

William L. Alden was born in Massachusetts but, when his father was named president of Jefferson College in southwestern Pennsylvania, he became a student there as well. He became a lawyer and journalist and wrote short humor pieces and children's stories. Many of his works were published in the New York Times, including his sketch about "Thanksgiving Pie" (circa 1877).
This illustration is from Alden's book Among the Freaks
Calling Thanksgiving "the one national festival which is peculiarly and thoroughly American," founded by colonists in New England. Because of this important distinction, Alden writes, Americans should be careful that their celebration is beyond reproach. Only one aspect of that holiday, he warns, remains which is "barbarous," "deadly," and "demoralizing" — he refers, of course, to pie.

Even an innocent palate, Alden warns, is easily entrapped by the cunningly lavish nature of this food. The maker of the pie is not deliberately wicked, merely thoughtless, to place such temptation on the table. A grown man easily "abandons all self-restraint," but Alden worries for young people, who are so easily corrupted. "How can we wonder that children who are thus tempted to acquire the taste for pie by their own parents grow up to be shameless and habitual consumers of pie!" If evidence is needed, consider how many children have a stomach ache the next day after Thanksgiving. Alden concludes with an impassioned appeal:

All the efforts of good men and women to stay the torrent of pie which threatens to engulf our beloved country will be in vain, unless the reform is begun at the Thanksgiving dinner-table. Pie must be banished from that otherwise innocent board, or it is in vain that we try to banish it from shops, restaurants, and hotels. May we not hope for a great moral crusade which will sweep pie from every virtuous table, and unite all the friends of morality in a vigorous and persistent attack upon the great evil of the land.

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