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Store-bought pie for Thanksgiving? Store-bought pie ever?

The thread about least favorite Thanksgiving foods got into the pros and cons, mostly cons, actually, of a store-bought pumpkin pie at the Thanksgiving table, and the consensus seemed to be that the store-bought kind were uniformly tasteless, and some were destined for the garbage can.
Got me thinking about those pies as convenience foods, especially for the elderly, whose eyesight or nimbleness of fingers don't permit the challenge of baking like they once did. Even the "easy" recipes from scratch may no longer be possible. A neighbor wants to make sure their elderly friend is included in the Thanksgiving guest list, and the conversation of "what can I bring?" ensues. The elderly guest shows up with...you guessed it... that store-bought pie that was always perceived as awful. But it is a gift of kindness, a gesture that is saying "thank you for inviting me." We could tell this scenario over and over with the batchelor who has never baked in his life, or the single mom with her 4 little ones who keep her running from morning to night, and sometimes through the night. We could tell the story for get-togethers other than Thanksgiving. That frazzled mom may put one of those pies in the grocery cart and serve it to her kids as a special dessert, since she rarely had time to whip something up at home. (We get together for covered dishes with other couples frequently, and the majority are working at their employment all day. The desserts are usually out of a box.)
Pre-packaged Mrs. Whoever pies or pastries may never measure up to homemade, but sometimes in our frenetic society, they just hit the spot.
Further thoughts?

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  1. Of course they have a place. As you point out, some people do not or cannot bake, and wish to have a pie either for themselves or to bring as a contribution. If you show up at my house for dinner, I will gladly accept anything you bring, homemade or store bought. I might not like it, but you will not (hopefully!) be able to tell. Also, I was brought up on Mrs Smith pies - thought they were wonderful til I baked my own. Some people do genuinely like them. Prepared foods in general serve a purpose, and my opinion is, if you don't like them, you can make your own & enjoy that. With the caveat that , of course, you will be gracious if someone brings something to you.

    My kids' school does a pie fundraiser every fall. I do not like fundraisers (I'll just write a check for a donation, don't ask my kids to sell stuff!!! sorry, rant over) and I do not like frozen pies all that much. But, I buy one or two and set them out along with my pies at the holidays. I get the frozen mud pie type, something I am not likely to make on my own, and they usually get at least partially eaten.

    Now I have a yen to go make an apple pie :)

    1 Reply
    1. re: elfcook

      I am not a big pumpkin pie fan but I always have a small piece on thanksgiving. My family always bought Mrs. Smiths too. We made our own apple pie and huckleberry pie. It might depend on how important the pumpkin pie is to you. For us, the fruit pies were the main dessert attraction!

    2. Since I don't really like desserts and especially 99% of pies, I'd be as happy eating homemade as storebought --- at someone else's house. (Re your mini-rant, I agree. My mother used to go slightly "rant-ish"over the same thing. And the kids who sold the most candy or whatever, usually had a parent take it to work where co-workers had their arms twisted.)

      We're going to a meal today that will be as heavy as any T'giving dinner. It will include a half dozen or more desserts. Total overkill IMO; we'll have some orange slices :)

      1. For me the questions boils down to "if you cannot make a pie at home, do you go with the store bought or do without"?

        My answer is always go for the pie. A "lesser" pie is better than no pie. However, not all store bought pies are created equal. A couple of bakeries around me frankly do a better job then my wife's home made stuff but it costs $. A reasonable pie at a great price can be had at costco. Love the apple. their pumkin is passible.

        One year my wife actually took a pumkin baked it, pureed it and made pies and breads. They were amazing but then she said she will never do that again as it was way too much trouble. Her fruit pies still rock.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Soup

          "For me the questions boils down to "if you cannot make a pie at home, do you go with the store bought or do without"?

          My answer is always go for the pie. A "lesser" pie is better than no pie."

          Yep, it's the same as the pizza rule. Cruddy pizza is better than no pizza

          1. re: Soup

            In our area, there is a butcher and two seafood shops who make much better pies than I ever could. I bring them to dinners and events without apology.

            1. re: Janet from Richmond

              That reminds me of a little family holiday tradition.

              All us gals can make a good pie, and often do.

              But there is an apple ranch in Tuolumne county, run by the Cover family (I think they might be amish?), and they make an awesome sour cream apple pie, that we've had every christmas and/or thanksgiving since I was very little. I'd not blink at bringing that pre-made pie to anybody, for it is popular for a very very good reason. The taste can't be beat IMO :D

          2. It's a nice gesture (all gifts are), but I personally would rather go without. If someone who didn't know how to bake brought in a disaster, I'd like that better (minimally, it's a conversation piece!). Or if there was something from a special bakery (not all store bought items are crap); that said, there are always some people who loved specific items from Entemann's, Krispy Kreme, Tastykake...

            Last year I made 3 types of mince as well as pumpkin (from a real pumpkin), and yes, it was a lot of work and took days. My mother in law is in charge of the pecan pie she makes once per year. I don't bake pies except during the holidays, and would rather show up with a bottle of wine (milk, bag of ice, ice cream, quart of oysters, or something else the host needed).

            For regularly scheduled get togethers--not something once a year--fruit salad is always welcomed. It doesn't need to be something elaborate, and after a heavy or rich meal, may be welcomed and if you don't have time to make it yourself, the grocer probably has a platter to purchase.

            Regarding the question of "what can I bring?", the answer is simple--yourself. If something is insisted, name whatever your favourite packaged item is, which may be Lemonheads or Jordan Almonds or Boston Baked Beans. That's simple, and can be set out in a candy bowl.

            My husband just reminded me that frozen pies are not a time saver--preheat oven (up to 15 minutes depending on oven), then bake for 50-60 minutes. It would take as much time to get a premade crust, slice up some apples (or buy pre-cut peeled apples), toss with sugar and cinnamon, dot with butter, and bake.

            1. That was a lovely post, Florida.

              For me, you've expressed the essential spirit of Thanksgiving, that of being grateful for all the good things that have been given to us, including the pleasure of other people's caring company. I think you've hit upon the fundamental meaning of what it means to be a welcoming, thankful host and a thoughtful, appreciative guest.

              Thank you for having touched my day with such a positive lesson.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Normandie

                backatcha, Normandie. An entire website about food often strikes a chord in me that reminds me we have abundance and as such, so much to be grateful for. Many of the threads about certain foods or certain restaurants remind me of people with whom I've shared meals and other of life's moments. Thank you for your gift of thoughtful feedback, today, too.

                1. re: Normandie

                  I never bothered to learn how to make a pie because that was my MIL's job. Since her death I have started using the store-bought pie crust. Not perfect but with made-from-scratch filling, most are quite good. But, sometimes I am just too busy to make a dessert for our weekly family dinners when the grandkids come. I like frozen pies from Schwan's food service, mostly apple or the triple berry that contain rhubarb.
                  For special dinners we have one relative we like to invite because she makes a great sticky roll. Another family friends makes a wonderful custard pie. Although she has given me the recipe ... it doesn't seem to be quite the same. She is in her early 80s and wants to bring something. So far she is willing to make a pie esp her mother's recipe for custard pie. When I ask her to bring a pie, she usually brings two so I know she still wants to bring pies even though she tells us how terrible her pies are, etc. We've had some pretty good pies from the supermarket bakery.
                  I try to allow extra cooking time for special holiday dinners because I want them to be memorable. Not that I do anything fancy but I'm proud of the winter squash casserole using squash from my garden. I know my family appreciates my efforts. It's interesting that for his 30th birthday my son requested American Chop Suey because his wife rarely makes it and it's one of his comfort foods. He and my husband have already discussed that with cooler weather it's time to think about a pot roast.

                  I don't mind what a guest brings to contribute. If a guest didn't contribute anything, that's ok, too because we invited them for their company (but the sticky buns really make it a good deal).

                  1. re: dfrostnh

                    The relationships, the food, and the warmth sound wonderful. You are blessed.