Arthur Nead knew instinctively what to do when he heard the news. It was Friday morning, July 27. 2012 and the word was spreading that there had been a devastating fire at the Hubig’s Pie plant.
Realizing that 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.
This was more than another business fire. Hubig’s represented something totally rare, a still-functioning factory in a city not known for manufacturing. Not only that, but Hubig’s was located in the Bywater neighborhood where it has been since 1922. The very thought of Hubig’s ablaze torched the soul.
By the time Nead, an artist who is the long-time illustrator for the “Streetcar” column in New Orleans Magazine, arrived at Singleton’s he could see that others had had the same idea. “A woman was walking out with a bag of fifteen 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 pies left, all of the lemon flavored variety, the type with the glazed sugar on the outside. Selling at $1.19 a piece, Nead bought all three.
He was not 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, although it was not until last week, almost seven years later, that plans for a new plant, backed by state incentives, were announced. Nevertheless, both time and pies will always be marked as being pre-fire or post-fire.
Here then arose the philosophical question about what to do with the rescued pies; eat them or save them for posterity?
Nead’s three pies were dated Aug. 2, 2012 so they still had about a week left of certified freshness. As a former philosophy major his mind is agile to the dialectics of decision-making. “I’ll eat one,” he said back then, “and save the other two for posterity.”
Last week I asked Nead what the fate of the pies had actually been. It turns out he ate none, preferring to save all three.
Posterity’s closet is no doubt filled with many items rescued from the onslaught of history. The same goes for posterity’s freezer.
BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT: Errol’s Laborde’s new book, “Mardi Gras: Chronicles of the New Orleans Carnival” (Pelican Publishing Company, 2013), has been released. It is now available at local bookstores and at book websites.
WATCH INFORMED SOURCES, FRIDAYS AT 7 P.M., REPEATED AT 11:30 P.M. WYES-TV, CH. 12.