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The Day the Pies Burned

ARTHUR NEAD ILLUSTRATION

As though triggered by the ping on his desktop, Arthur Nead knew instinctively what to do when he saw the news headline. It was Friday morning, July 27, and the word was spreading that there had been a devastating fire at the Hubig’s Pie plant.

Realizing he might never bite into a Hubig’s Pie again, he hurried to the nearest store – a neighborhood grocery in the Black Pearl area called Singleton’s.

There was more to this fire than just flames. Hubig’s represented something totally rare, a still-functioning factory in a city not known for manufacturing. Not only that, but Hubig’s was still located in the Marigny neighborhood where it had been since 1922, rather than in some metal office park shed. The very thought of Hubig’s ablaze torched the soul.

By the time Nead, who is the long-time illustrator of this column, arrived at Singleton’s, he could see that others had had the same idea. “A woman was walking out with a bag of 15 pies,” he recalled. “She said she was going to give them as souvenirs to friends.”

When he entered the store, Nead discovered that there were only three Hubig’s products left, all of them lemon fried pies, the type with the glazed sugar on the outside. Selling at $1.19 a piece, Nead bought all three.

He wasn’t alone. The blaze caused what was probably the best-selling day in Hubig’s history. Throughout the town, people rushed to grocery stores, many finding the counters emptied.

Thankfully, Hubig’s officials were quick to say that they would rebuild, which removed some of the uncertainty. Nevertheless, both time and pies will always be marked as being pre-fire or post-fire.

Here then arose the philosophical question: What to do with the pies, eat them or save them for posterity?

Need’s three were dated Aug. 2, so they still had about a week left of certified freshness. That date had passed when I posed the question to Nead. As a former philosophy major, his mind is agile to the dialectics of profound debate. “I’ll eat one, he said, “and save the other two for posterity.”

That is posterity’s gain. Posterity’s closet is no doubt filled with many items rescued from the onslaught of history. Now if only someone would donate a couple of apple pies, too.

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