News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Opinion

July 4, 2013

RONN MOTT: Birthday

It might be a little surprising to some to learn that my favorite pie is the old English Christmas pie (more on that later). And it has become a family tradition at least twice a year that I get a Christmas pie … in June for my birthday and, of course, at Christmas.

I don’t know exactly how it began. I could have taken time to look it up but generally I write from memory and what I know. And what I know is it was a runaway hit in England. After butchering in the autumn of the year, meat from that was used for many things including the Christmas pie. The meat used for the pie was minced and mixed with available fruit, raisons, apples, and certainly spices. When it was seasoned, roughly about holiday time, all of this was baked into a pie. It became a Christmas tradition in the nation that really knew how to celebrate Christmas.

Of course, in England, things couldn’t go without a war, a revolt, bandits, or something, and in England the Christmas pie destroyer was Oliver Cromwell. This puritan fanatic not only chopped off the head of Charles I, but he fashioned one of the strongest, best-trained armies ever. And he, like the Grinch, tried to cancel Christmas. Therefore, say goodbye to the Christmas pie.

The English were not about to give up their pie, or Christmas for that matter. So to placate the religious fanaticism of Oliver Cromwell, the English merely changed the name of the pie. Instead of eating a “Christmas pie,” they named it after the ingredients therein … the very famous mincemeat. Henceforth, the Motts who came from England made mincemeat pie.

At first, I didn’t like it. My association with pies was pretty much limited to fruit pies, apple, cherry and peach. And later, it was coconut cream, banana cream and pumpkin at Thanksgiving. I do not know when the mincemeat ingredients began to be put into a jar and sold at the grocery store. Someone in my family made one of those pies (the mincemeat pie without the meat). Now, if asked, I will tell you this is my favorite pie. In the morning when it is cool or downright cold, nothing, but nothing, goes better with my strong coffee than mincemeat pie. I enjoy thumbing my nose at England’s great protector, Oliver Cromwell, and smiling with a warm piece of mincemeat pie that goes perfectly with my coffee.

Someone should have written, a long time ago, it isn’t the price of the gift, but how well you cherish it. Those mornings reading the paper, savoring your coffee, and absolutely loving your mincemeat pie. It’s a grand gift.

Ronn Mott, a longtime radio personality in Terre Haute, writes commentaries for the Tribune-Star. His pieces are published online Tuesday and Thursday on Tribstar.com, and in the print and online editions on Saturday.

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