How much should a pumpkin pie cost? This was the question that my wife and I debated and discussed with the help of willing taste testers over the holiday weekend. The discussion began when she picked up a pumpkin pie at our local CSA. While paying for it I was told it would be $12.50. I was surprised at the cost and announced, “wow, this seems expensive. Stop and Shop sells pies for $5.” My naivety was silently dismissed by the cashier, and I was informed by my wife that the ingredients were much better. Moreover the reference point should have been Akins, or Whole foods, both have bakeshops that use good quality [fresh-healthy] ingredients. [Subsequent research found other quality bakeshops to have cheaper pies:: atkins $11, whole foods $9.99, and trader joes $4.99.]
Admittedly, the CSA did provide organically grown pumpkins and the unknown baker of the pies most likely must have used these pumpkins. The ingredients listed on the homemade packaging sound reasonable. Yet, there was no experience or branding with the pie. I had never tried the pie previously, and with an important dessert such as thanksgiving I wasn’t sure if I wanted to take a risk. Why not pay less and get a pie we know would taste good?
How difficult or expensive is it to make a pumpkin pie? Pies after all are the “common man’s food.” A little internet research indicates that some of the first pumpkin pies in plimoth MA (1661) consisted of pumpkin, honey, milk, and spices in a pumpkin shell cooked on ashes. A 1796 American cookbook [American cookery, by an American orphan by Amelia Simmons] featured recipes similar to what we buy in our stores: One quart of milk, 1 pint pompkin, 4 eggs, molasses, allspice and ginger in a crust, bake 1 hour.
Besides debating the quality of the ingredients and recipes, we discussed economies of scale, treatment of employees, importance of buying local, the cost of branding, carbon footprint of driving to different stores and so forth. A very interesting discussion, but no answers were found.
In the end, we decided to have relatives participate in a blind taste test. Trader Joes $4.99 vs. the CSA $12.50. This way we got to have twice as many pies.
The CSA pie was very good. All relatives preferred this one. (Incidentally, both pies were finished quickly).
Still, one could question whether the 150% higher price was warranted? The taste in my opinion was 150% better. So, many of the other considerations such as locally sourcing and fair wages are somewhat moot, and are an added bonus.
With all this in mind, I do know that we will likely buy the same pie next year and will not be buying the Neimen Marcus pumpkin pie for $50, even though they include free shipping.
What is the most you have paid for a pie? What factors besides price and taste do you consider?For my wife's perspective on this issue click here.