Very Tiny Voyage: Bucktown Apple Pie Contest

If one were to think of an apple pie contest, one might think of a small-town event, under the town’s picnic shelter, with conservative ladies with big hair and mom jeans, wearing embroidered aprons. Perhaps country band plays in the background.

But what if you put the word “Bucktown” in front of “apple pie contest”? Suddenly a totally different picture emerges: twee decorations, hipsters and semi-hipsters, young metro dads wearing baby carriers as accessories, and local foodie celebrities. There’s still a country band, but one that performs with ironic smiles.

Not that I’m criticizing. I’m just pointing out an interesting observation: that small-town religious and politically conservative folks and the fashionable, liberally and intellectually inclined urbanites have something in common.

The Bucktown Apple Pie Contest has grown from year to year, this time drawing close to 200 entrants. Why the rise in popularity? Perhaps it’s a yearning for simpler times, as argued here. We live in a complicated, disconnected world where being part of a community means an online one rather than a physical one.

Making apple pie is a timeless task in a modern mechanized world. It requires focus, much more time and attention than we usually devote to a single task these days. It’s simple—there are no moving parts except your hands, bringing together pie dough and carefully peeling and slicing apples to a uniform size.

One makes an apple pie to share it. Eating apple pie is a social act, enjoyed with friends and family. Making apple pie is a service act—nothing shows respect for your relationships than showing up with a handmade pie. It’s not showing up at a party with a six pack.

And so on a pretty fall day, the mood in Bucktown’s Holstein Park was unpretentious, unguarded, and simply fun, as people celebrated the simplest of American desserts as well as the simplicity it represents.