Desperation Pies Are Making a Comeback

You may not have heard the term “desperation pie” before, but odds are you’ve eaten one. If you’ve ever had buttermilk pie, vinegar pie, chess pie, or shoo-fly pie, you’ve had a desperation pie. Otherwise known as “make-do” pies, these pies were what grandma made from common pantry items when she couldn’t get fresh fruit. They were the result of the economic hardship during the Great Depression and were popular during the rationing of World War II. While some perishable goods and fresh fruit weren’t available, ingredients such as vinegar and molasses were. So, inventive cooks rolled up their sleeves and created some delicious new desserts. Vinegar pie was made just like a lemon pie, but the tartness came from vinegar rather than lemons. Chess pie was similar to pecan pie, minus the pecans, and buttermilk pie was a mixture of buttermilk, eggs, butter, and sugar that created a tangy custard pie. A few of these pies took root and became regional favorites, but most faded from public consciousness and were revived only during times of hardship. Now that inflation is out of control, home cooks are turning to desperation pies once again.