Against the horror of the bottomless “pie”– it's just stew with a pastry hat

The disillusionment of plunging a fork into something that claims to be a pie, and almost immediately hitting plate, is like no other.

As Joseph Goebbels infamously said: “The bigger the lie, the more it will be believed.” For a genocidal fuckhead, the guy made quite a lot of sense. As anyone even vaguely politically aware knows, society is force-fed untruths like a French goose on its merry way to Pierre’s Maison de Foie Gras. Nixon said he wasn’t a crook, Clinton told porkies about blowjobs and, closer to home, Blair set fire to his pants over Iraq. But the biggest lie; the most insidious, grave and ubiquitous falsehood on which we’re so disingenuously nurtured is not political.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “pie” as “a baked dish of fruit, or meat and vegetables, typically with a top and base of pastry”. By definition, a baseless pie is atypical. But what the OED, in all its faceless objectivity, fails to get across is that a pie without a pastry bottom isn’t just an anomaly, it’s an unequivocal lie. On Thursday, a picture appeared in the Guardian that took a massive, rusty chainsaw to some of the most fundamental culinary truths. You’d probably expect an article about “how to make the perfect pie” to be accompanied by a nice picture of, well, a pie. Instead, they illustrated the piece with an image of a stew with a pastry hat. The bottomless “pie” is an insult to all things baked. This wasn’t an article about how to make an average pie, or even some kind of ambiguous ersatz pie; the crime against pastry pictured claimed to be the perfect pie.

As we’ve established, the bottomless pie is, in fact, not a pie. It’s, at the very best, Stew Version 2.0. The disillusionment of plunging a fork into something that claims to be a pie, and almost immediately hitting plate, is like no other. Typically, one of these glaring disappointments is topped with puff pastry. And therein lies the first offence of the bottomless pie. Puff pastry isn’t absorbent. It’s the gastronomic equivalent of that onion skin-textured loo roll from public toilets in the 90s, which literally repelled wee. In a proper pie, the inner pastry (which absolutely has to be short crust) absorbs all of that glorious, meaty gravy and turns it into a gooey, squidgy orgy of texture and flavour. This is equally true of a fruit pie, in which the pastry absorbs the sweet, tangy syrup. With the bottomless pie, the nebulous pastry lid sits atop a languid dollop of meat and gravy, or chunks of fruit that have given up on life entirely, looking about as comfortable as a bamboo raft on a choppy Atlantic.

“Well, I suppose I’ll hang out here for a bit – as long as no one minds,” says the puff pastry lid, “I’d hate to be an imposition.”

Tragically, the bottomless pie isn’t a rarity. It’s become a gastro pub stalwart, along with pretentious, seventeen times cooked chips and steaks on wooden planks. Hint: if your so-called “pie” comes in a ramekin, it’s going to take a Hoover to your soul. And until menus throughout the country change the word for mendacious “pie” to “insidious lie”, we’re doomed.

 

A real pie has pastry all the way round, like this one. Photo: Ruth Ellison on Flickr, via Creative Commons

Eleanor Margolis is a freelance journalist, whose "Lez Miserable" column appears weekly on the New Statesman website.

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Is Yvette Cooper surging?

The bookmakers and Westminster are in a flurry. Is Yvette Cooper going to win after all? I'm not convinced. 

Is Yvette Cooper surging? The bookmakers have cut her odds, making her the second favourite after Jeremy Corbyn, and Westminster – and Labour more generally – is abuzz with chatter that it will be her, not Corbyn, who becomes leader on September 12. Are they right? A couple of thoughts:

I wouldn’t trust the bookmakers’ odds as far as I could throw them

When Jeremy Corbyn first entered the race his odds were at 100 to 1. When he secured the endorsement of Unite, Britain’s trade union, his odds were tied with Liz Kendall, who nobody – not even her closest allies – now believes will win the Labour leadership. When I first tipped the Islington North MP for the top job, his odds were still at 3 to 1.

Remember bookmakers aren’t trying to predict the future, they’re trying to turn a profit. (As are experienced betters – when Cooper’s odds were long, it was good sense to chuck some money on there, just to secure a win-win scenario. I wouldn’t be surprised if Burnham’s odds improve a bit as some people hedge for a surprise win for the shadow health secretary, too.)

I still don’t think that there is a plausible path to victory for Yvette Cooper

There is a lively debate playing out – much of it in on The Staggers – about which one of Cooper or Burnham is best-placed to stop Corbyn. Team Cooper say that their data shows that their candidate is the one to stop Corbyn. Team Burnham, unsurprisingly, say the reverse. But Team Kendall, the mayoral campaigns, and the Corbyn team also believe that it is Burnham, not Cooper, who can stop Corbyn.

They think that the shadow health secretary is a “bad bank”: full of second preferences for Corbyn. One senior Blairite, who loathes Burnham with a passion, told me that “only Andy can stop Corbyn, it’s as simple as that”.

I haven’t seen a complete breakdown of every CLP nomination – but I have seen around 40, and they support that argument. Luke Akehurst, a cheerleader for Cooper, published figures that support the “bad bank” theory as well.   Both YouGov polls show a larger pool of Corbyn second preferences among Burnham’s votes than Cooper’s.

But it doesn’t matter, because Andy Burnham can’t make the final round anyway

The “bad bank” row, while souring relations between Burnhamettes and Cooperinos even further, is interesting but academic.  Either Jeremy Corbyn will win outright or he will face Cooper in the final round. If Liz Kendall is eliminated, her second preferences will go to Cooper by an overwhelming margin.

Yes, large numbers of Kendall-supporting MPs are throwing their weight behind Burnham. But Kendall’s supporters are overwhelmingly giving their second preferences to Cooper regardless. My estimate, from both looking at CLP nominations and speaking to party members, is that around 80 to 90 per cent of Kendall’s second preferences will go to Cooper. Burnham’s gaffes – his “when it’s time” remark about Labour having a woman leader, that he appears to have a clapometer instead of a moral compass – have discredited him in him the eyes of many. While Burnham has shrunk, Cooper has grown. And for others, who can’t distinguish between Burnham and Cooper, they’d prefer to have “a crap woman rather than another crap man” in the words of one.

This holds even for Kendall backers who believe that Burnham is a bad bank. A repeated refrain from her supporters is that they simply couldn’t bring themselves to give Burnham their 2nd preference over Cooper. One senior insider, who has been telling his friends that they have to opt for Burnham over Cooper, told me that “faced with my own paper, I can’t vote for that man”.

Interventions from past leaders fall on deaf ears

A lot has happened to change the Labour party in recent years, but one often neglected aspect is this: the Labour right has lost two elections on the bounce. Yes, Ed Miliband may have rejected most of New Labour’s legacy and approach, but he was still a protégé of Gordon Brown and included figures like Rachel Reeves, Ed Balls and Jim Murphy in his shadow cabinet.  Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham were senior figures during both defeats. And the same MPs who are now warning that Corbyn will doom the Labour Party to defeat were, just months ago, saying that Miliband was destined for Downing Street and only five years ago were saying that Gordon Brown was going to stay there.

Labour members don’t trust the press

A sizeable number of Labour party activists believe that the media is against them and will always have it in for them. They are not listening to articles about Jeremy Corbyn’s past associations or reading analyses of why Labour lost. Those big, gamechanging moments in the last month? Didn’t change anything.

100,000 people didn’t join the Labour party on deadline day to vote against Jeremy Corbyn

On the last day of registration, so many people tried to register to vote in the Labour leadership election that they broke the website. They weren’t doing so on the off-chance that the day after, Yvette Cooper would deliver the speech of her life. Yes, some of those sign-ups were duplicates, and 3,000 of them have been “purged”.  That still leaves an overwhelmingly large number of sign-ups who are going to go for Corbyn.

It doesn’t look as if anyone is turning off Corbyn

Yes, Sky News’ self-selecting poll is not representative of anything other than enthusiasm. But, equally, if Yvette Cooper is really going to beat Jeremy Corbyn, surely, surely, she wouldn’t be in third place behind Liz Kendall according to Sky’s post-debate poll. Surely she wouldn’t have been the winner according to just 6.1 per cent of viewers against Corbyn’s 80.7 per cent. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.