I woke up this morning with a hangover.

Not from drinking, I was solo parenting for the night and tipping a bottle doesn’t exactly scream responsible dad to me. No, I’m pretty sure this particular feeling was brought on by a mix of fat, salt and greasy shame.

Recently a couple things occurred in my mind. One was the looming of Thanksgiving on the calendar. It is hands down, without a doubt, my favorite day of the year. One which I prepare for obsessively. Each year is the same: The same dogmatically familial dinner menu of spaghetti with sugo, garlic bread, turkey, sausage stuffing and salad (in recent years potatoes and gravy have been included…it was a major coup that my wife got mashed potatoes in the mix, much less the gravy—it was something that I adamantly refused to do before our wedding). The same grandiose grocery shopping and beer drinking trip with my brother and cousin where we load up on all the week’s provisions. And the same week off of work to prep all of the various from-scratch items. The one variable is the day’s antipasti. It’s a spread that seems to get more expensive and grandiose each year and something that I spend weeks evaluating and deciding what will be included. It is a “snack” that tilts toward the glory of Rome in both its genetic heritage and its gluttonous extremes.

The other occurance was a recent post I read on Daniel Vaughn’s encyclopedic barbecue site about a joint in Dallas serving barbecue filled fried pies. Granted, this reading was well over a month ago. But it was something that had never occurred to me and therefore it stuck. Something who’s possibilities I mulled over again and again. Something that I wanted to make the cut as antipasto on the great day of all days. Make no mistake, I put a fair amount of planning, scheming and effort into how to bring my own personal vision of the deep fried barbecue pie to life. I smoked short ribs instead of a brisket, so I could rely on their decent fat content to make a simple, quick to cook chopped beef (which does work by the way and they smoke up pretty well in 4-6 hours). I made a piecrust with equal parts Mangalitsa lard and butter for added flake. I broke into a little bulk sausage I had from my last batch of hot guts. I even contemplated high-falutin’ additions like giardiniera, goat cheese and chives to help balance and cut the meats’ fattiness, resulting in the best possible pie. In the end I opted for simplicity and traditional appeal, deciding that a fried pie should be a salt of the earth, humble item.

So I made them, four varieties: chopped beef with pickles and cheese, solo pickles and cheese (like a tiny side dish pie), mesquite chicken and onion pie, and beef hot link pie—something I envisioned as an ethereal link in a flaky, bready casing that oozed a little delicious grease when bit into.

And when I was done? Boy did they all suck.

The initial bites carried some guilty pleasure. I knew it was fair food, but I knew that going in. The crust could have used a little salt, but it was flaky and had good texture. More than that, the pickle and cheese pie was surprisingly the best of the bunch.

But then came the second bites. This was when I realized I wasn’t eating just fair food anymore. But rather, I felt like I was being violated behind the tilt-a-whirl by a carnie from the deep-fried butter stand and my stomach was paying the price of actively trying to repress the memory.

The third bites just tasted like shame. The hot link fried pie became a less charming version of a truck stop corn dog. And the chopped beef was definitely reminding me of a shittier reincarnation of the last Hot Pocket I ate 10 years ago. I may as well have been guzzling corn syrup.

And by the time I was done (done in the “no mas” Roberto Duran sense) I felt like a Paula Dean recipe tester who spent his Friday nights tonguing the grease pit behind Applebee’s.

This entire transition took all of 4 minutes from start to finish, if only because I was stopping for pictures.

Not even a bomber of Stone’s Lucky Bastard was enough to wash away the pervasive slick of evil and malevolence that was coating the back of my tongue and esophagus while roiling my small intestine like an angry kraken. No, I was convinced I needed a diabetes medicine enema to ward off the spontaneous on-set of fat man’s gout that I knew was only a matter of moments away. The horror.

Overall, I’d call my fried pie experiment a win for salad. Something nice with spicy greens, dried fruits and a little vinegar. Just please god, no more oil.


  1. Aunt Patty says:

    They can’t all be winners. It sounds like to damn much work to me. Stick to the tried and true, but I would save some time and use Swansons broth.

    • Jake says:

      I like the experimentation. And I know that I’ll never convert you to homemade stock but it does make a big difference, especially if you throw a few beef bones into the mix.

  2. I feel the same way about Thanksgiving as you do…it’s my favorite day. Where we diverge is over the Mashed Potato and Gravy..to me they are as important as anything else….and need to be carefully curated to bring all things together…because the gravy is not just for the potato, but sometimes for the turkey on that day and then eventually as the base for the liquid in the the turkey pot pie on day Thanksgiving +3.

    • Jake says:

      I love gravy as much as the next guy, but I didn’t even know people ate potatoes at Thanksgiving till at least the 3rd grade. I was SHOCKED to hear about yams, let alone the absence of pasta. My menu probably relies too much on food memory and wanting things the way they were at my grandparents’ house, but hey that’s what holidays are about. Hope you guys have a great one.