Nutley, NJ 07110
Pie $ don't know
Coffee $ too much for this so-so cup o' Joe
For those of you just joining us here at Jersey Pie, we offer a quick review of our efforts thus far. After sampling the mediocre cherry pie offered by our local diner we decided to begin a search - chronicled in a blog - for the best cherry pie and coffee in New Jersey. Little did we know we had entered a nightmare world of refrigerator burn, coagulated goo, irascible boogers, high fructose corn syrup, and widget pies. Along the way we did get some pretty good cherry pie at the Bendix Diner (where the crust is too dense), some darn good cherry pie at the Tom Sawyer Diner (where the crust is not quite flaky), and what we think was probably very good cherry pie at the Jubilee Park Diner (where a mop bucket of bleach water overpowered our taste buds.) Six months later, we're still looking for New Jersey's best piece of cherry pie. Which brings us to the self-proclaimed #1 diner in the state.
Jersey Pie experienced a vision in the parking lot of the Nutley Diner, but it wasn't a vision of pie. It looked more like a Belgian waffle with strawberries and whipped cream. Now a lunch of waffles with cherry pie for dessert is not at all sensible, we know; we struggled with the order, but the power of this vision overwhelmed the wisdom of having an omelet, so it was done. In addition we ordered a Swiss, lettuce and tomato on whole wheat toast and an order of waffle fries. Our waitress returned a few minutes after we placed our order to make sure we wanted whipped cream on the waffle. She understood the meaning of our "Yes" with psychic astuteness, for our waffle was served in a veritable helmet of whipped cream. (She knew she was good, and proclaimed it outright, in so many words.) The strawberries were abundant and absolutely fresh, and the waffle was light on the inside and toasty on the outside. If this were a waffle quest, this would be the final, triumphant post of Jersey Waffle. Our other orders were just as fresh and flavorful. The CLT sandwich and fries, for all their simplicity, could not have been better, and, yes, even the ubiquitous slaw was delicious.
So we were encouraged as we sat waiting for our pie and coffee. Maybe the #1 diner in the state was going to knock this one out of the park. But there at the Nutley Diner we were faced with yet another insipid, jejune piece of...pie. A slice so pale, so wan it seemed to have been barely sustained by--weeks?--of refrigeration. And even the coffee had plenty of room for improvement. We ask you, Nutley Diner, "Why, oh why, do you not rotate the pie?" We had so much hope for you, Nutley Diner. Why disappoint us with your inferior pie and coffee?
The pie, the pie, the pie... It seems the odds are stacked against us; at a rate of only three so-so or better slices of cherry pie in twice as many months of searching, is there more going on here than our clever use of the semi-colon? Is this Jersey pie a pie in the sky? Those of you who have been journeying along with us probably aren't even expecting good pie. Isn't that sad? Call us ingenuous ; ) We did believe that this blog would be spent comparing the finer distinctions of a mighty fine dessert. We really did. Since then we've come to know the harsh reality of commercial dining, even of the supposed home-style variety. A reality harsh enough to leave us wondering if our whole endeavor was futile. We felt so alone : (
It was heartening to meet Joe Hill* (or re-meet, as we had heard the Joan Baez song), through this "pie in the sky" phrase, just after asking ourselves (see last week's post) whether industrialization had dulled our senses, dulled our expectations. We won't venture a guess as to whether workers in control of the means of production would bake a better pie. We suspect that the problem of caring, the problem of investing oneself in the task at hand, whether baking a cherry pie or doing any other task, may well remain. How do we respond? The IWW emphasized the primacy of human life and happiness, and their mission was to respond consciously to industrialization. Jersey Pie is simpatico with this. We steadfastly assert that the cherry pie product should be of the highest quality, no matter who produces it, and we will continue to alert the public to purveyors of shoddy pies. Dining establishments, if the pie is not going to be good, do us all a favor and take it off the menu. This is our answer (for now) to our readers, who must by now be asking - as we are asking ourselves - why do we keep ordering cherry pie in New Jersey diners?
*Joe Hill, the most prolific songwriter of the Wobblies, coined the phrase "pie in the sky" in the early 1900s. Joe was stickin' it to the Salvation Army, suggesting that working folks needed pie here and now, not promises of heaven. Some folks will tell you that it was Joe's insistence on pie for the common man that got him shot full of holes by a firing squad in Utah. You see, Joe was in bed with another man's wife the night two thugs robbed and killed a merchant in the same town. When Joe turned up with a jealous man's bullet in him, the same night as the robbery took place, it looked suspicious. All the united workers of the world, and even President Wilson, couldn't save the 36 year old pie-idealist from the firing squad. His martyred body was taken to Chicago, IWW headquarters, and cremated. His ashes were mailed to IWW locals all over the world, and freed to the winds the following May 1st. Except for one envelope of ashes that was confiscated by the United States postal service and stamped "subversive." These ashes were released from the National Archive to the IWW in the 1980s, and in deference to Abbie Hoffman's prankish vision a portion of them were eaten by Billy Bragg. Jersey Pie's pie clamoring will hopefully not have such a dire outcome. Here's to you, Joe Hill.