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OP: Pie Marches On

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by Monroe Boston Strause

Aherens Publishing Company, 1958. Hardcover, no jacket. Very Good.

Here is a scarce, near-legendary book—a great professional resource and a collector's prize—which store founder, Nach Waxman, learned about in the early 1980s but didn’t see his first copy of it until more than a decade later. And we have only ever been able to offer a couple of copies since.

Why all the fuss? The answer is, it is perhaps the most famous⁠—and least seen⁠—book on pies and pie baking ever published. 

Monroe Boston Strause (1900–1981), while still in his teens, went to work in an uncle’s bakery, eventually mastering the trade. Totally consumed by his fascination with pies, he invented literally dozens of now commonplace varieties, including the family of pies we now call “chiffon”⁠—light, airy fillings, tempting in appearance, and excellent repositories of flavor. He also developed the graham cracker crust, now almost universal for softer, lighter fillings.

His 1939 cookbook, Pie Marches On, contains recipes for, seemingly, endless numbers of pies, including such show-stoppers as malted milk cream, grape souffle, black bottom chiffon, lemon sponge, and even that not-really-a-pie, Boston cream.

The word “bible” is far overused for references such as this, but this is truly the last word: fiercely detailed, insistent on precision, and packed with information about the underlying science. 

It is good reading, too. The voice is Strause’s own, not that of some textbook editor. “I just recently dropped into a well-known eating establishment in New York, and there in the bakery department the bakers were busy making banana cream pies.” They were doing it all wrong, he says, explaining with care that if you followed their procedure, “nothing you can do will keep the bananas from turning dark.” He then offers a correction. 

The text is leavened with personal opinions, scads of exclamation points, and such indulgences as a photo of himself and movie star Mary Pickford tasting his orange chiffon pie, both beaming. The book was originally published through American Restaurant, but the author was clearly given free hand. 

Ahrens Publishing Company took on the printing rights and reissued the book in 1951, but even their editions remain hard-to-find due to collector demand. We offer here a 1958 fourth printing of that Ahrens edition. The book block is in Fine condition—sturdy, clean, and crisp. Lacking the uncommonly seen jacket, the case is shelfworn about the edges with some scuffs and stains. Unlikely to turn up quickly again, this is an act-fast kind of offer.

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