A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from January 19, 2009
“As American as apple pie”

"As American as apple pie” is a popular phrase today, even though apple pies came from Europe and the pies aren’t as popular in America as they once were.

Although “apple pyes” are cited in print from 16th century Europe, the American apples have a special sweetness and are not made the same way. “American apple pie” is cited in print in 1881; in 1890, Queen Victoria of England specifically asked her baker to make an “American apple pie.”

“For the rest, it is full of satisfying humor without a dull spot and is as American as apple pie” was cited in a 1910 theatrical review. Henry Finck, in his book Food and Flavor (1913), stated that he would claim apple pie as an American national dish. “The apple pie is ours,” Finck wrote, “as much as our flag.” “Baths are as characteristically American as apple pie” was cited in print in 1920.

Alice Gentle, an opera singer with Chicago’s Ravinia opera, further popularized the full phrase in July 1921. Gentle demanded that some American millionaire put up the money for an American opera “as American as apple pie.” Gentle also added that the opera be as American as wheat cakes, corn on the cob, mail-order houses, one-night stands(!) and Mississippi river steamboats. Citations for “as American as apple pie” existed in the 1920s and 1930s, but really took off in the early 1940s, during World War II.

A variant phrase is “as American as cherry pie.” H. Rap Brown, of the Black Panther Party, once said that “violence is as American as cherry pie” in the late 1960s.

The phrase “as American as baseball or apple pie” is cited from 1928. In the fall of 1974, a car jingle declared that these four things go together in the good old U.S.A.: “Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet.”

[This entry was assisted by research from the Early Sports and Pop Culture History Blog.]


Cambridge Dictionaries Online
be as American as apple pie
to be typically American
. Country and western music is as American as apple pie.
(from Cambridge International Dictionary of Idioms)

Wikipedia: Apple pie
An apple pie is a fruit pie (or tart) in which the principal filling ingredient is apples (Cooking Apples). It is sometimes served with whipped cream on top of it. Pastry is generally used top-and-bottom, making a double-crust pie, the upper crust of which may be a disk shaped crust or a pastry lattice woven of strips; exceptions are deep-dish apple pie with a top crust only, and open-face Tarte Tatin.
(...)
Apple pie in American culture
In the English colonies the apple pie had to wait for carefully planted pips, brought in barrels across the Atlantic, to become fruit-bearing apple trees, to be selected for their cooking qualities, as apples do not come true from seeds. In the meantime, the colonists were more likely to make their pies, or “pasties”, of meat rather than of fruit; and the main use for apples, once they were available, was in cider. But there are American apple-pie recipes, both manuscript and printed, from the eighteenth century, and it has since become a very popular dessert.

A mock apple pie made from crackers was apparently invented by pioneers on the move during the nineteenth century who were bereft of apples. In the 1930s, and for many years afterwards, Ritz Crackers promoted a recipe for mock apple pie using its product, along with sugar and various spices.

Although apple pies have been eaten since long before the discovery of America, “as American as apple pie” is a common saying in the United States, meaning “typically American”. The dish was also commemorated in the phrase “for Mom and apple pie” - supposedly the stock answer of American soldiers in WWII, whenever journalists asked why they were going to war.

Advertisers exploited the patriotic connection in the 1970s with the TV jingle “baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet”.

(Oxford English Dictionary)
(as) American as apple pie (orig. U.S.): typically or traditionally American; intrinsic to or emblematic of American culture.
1924 Gettysburg (Pa.) Times 2 June 6/4 (advt.) New Lestz Suits that are as American as apple pie.
1966 T. LEHRER National Brotherhood Week (song) in Tom Lehrer’s Second Song Bk. (1968) 10 All of my folks hate all of your folks, It’s American as apple pie.
1976 Newsweek (Nexis) 17 May 14 Baseball is as American as apple pie, so it was embarrassing when Taiwan Little League teams outslugged, outpitched and outfielded the best American teams.
1986 Listener 17 Apr. 22/3 The ‘frequent-flyer bonus scheme’ is as American as apple-pie.
2004 M. TORGOFF Can’t find my Way Home 1 Drugs have become as American as apple pie.

15 May 1881, Boston (MA) Daily Globe, “A Perilous Pie: A Dyspeptic Danger Which Once Beset the Late Czar,” pg. 6:
Among many infernal machines employed by the Nihilists the American apple pie was much used.

13 March 1890, Philadelphia (PA) Inquirer, “The Queen’s Apple Pie,” pg. 4:
A paragraph from over the sea reports that Queen Victoria recently ordered her baker to make her an American apple pie. That is all it says. 

Chronicling America
5 July 1891, Salt Lake Herald (Salt Lake City, UT), pg. 10, col. 1:
AMBROSIAL FEASTS.
America Ahead with Her Own
Apple Pie.

(...)
After years of foreign travel I have never met a dish so perfect as the American apple pie can be, with cream.
(M. E. W. Sherwood—ed.)

Google Books
The Art of Entertaining
By M. E. W. Sherwood (Mary Elizabeth Wilson Sherwood—ed.)
New York, NY: Dodd, Mead and Company
1892
Pg. 135:
During years of foreign travel I have never net a dish so perfect as the American apple pie can be, with cream.

Google Books
October 1910, Metropolitan Magazine “Bobby Burnit” review by Winchell Smith, pg. 120:
His acting is a delight. For the rest, it is full of satisfying humor without a dull spot and is as American as apple pie.

Google Books
Food and Flavor:
A Gastronomic Guide to Health and Good Living

By Henry T. Finck
New York, NY: The Century Co.
1913
Pg. 466:
APPLE PIE AND CRANBERRIES.
Is pie as thoroughly American as maple syrup, griddle cakes, and corn bread?

An American is likely to answer “Yes,” while an Englishman might say “No.”
(...)(Pg. 467—ed.)
Were these apple pyes (of the 16th century—ed.) the same as the American apple pie of our day? I doubt it. If they had been, the Britons of our time certainly would make the same kind, but they don’t. Their substitute for our fruit pie is the tart, which has only one crust and is otherwsie different.

Even if it could be proved that we got our fruit pie from England, shape, contents, and all, I still would claim it as a national American dish—American by right of conquest, improvement, and country-wide (Pg. 468—ed.) use. Millions of American families eat it daily, at lunch or at dinner.
(...)
Has ever an English divine paid such attention to pie? No; the apple pie is ours, as much as our flag.

Google Books
March 1920, World Outlook, pg. 45, col. 2:
Baths are as characteristically American as apple pie.

5 July 1921, Cleveland (OH) Plain-Dealer, pg. 13: 
MISS GENTLE ASKS
AMERICAN OPERA
Diva Says Some Millionaire
SHould Offer $50,000 to
U. S. Composers.

CHICAGO, July 4.—Alice Gentle, the opera singer, is tired of the foreign productions and wants to see a real American opera.

Such a creation, she says, would mean a jump of fifty years in American culture. She believes some millionaire could do nothing better than to offer $50,000 to stir some composer to brilliant efforts.

And Alice has her idea of what the theme should be. She holds it would have to be a “Main Street” affair to be typically American.

“I’d like to forget these foreign operas just once and sing a thrilling new American opera,” she said tonight.

“I’m thinking of the real thing,” she went on, “not a clumsy remodeling of shop work Italian or French or German work. I want something as Yankee and beautiful as a Kansas alfalfa field at sunrise, when the sweetish, dewy smells make you dizzy with Pollyanna emotions.”
(...)
“It’s coming. The American opera and it will be as American as apple pie, wheat cakes, Mississippi river steamboats and mail order houses. And say, I’m going to sing in that opera.”

31 July 1921, San Antonio (TX) Light, pg. 6C, cols. 3-4:
Alice Gentle, contralto of the Ravinia opera, Chicago, in an interview published in a July issue of one of the Chicago papers, said, “I would like to forget these foreign operas just once and sing in a thrilling new American opera. The real thing, you know. Not a clumsy remodeling of shopworn Italian, German or French work. Something as Yankee and as beautiful as a Kansas alfalfa field at sunrise.”
(...)
“This opera will be as American as apple pie, wheat cakes, corn on the cob, one-night stands and mail-order houses, and I am going to sing in that opera.”

3 June 1924, Titusville (PA) Herald, pg. 2, col. 6 ad:
This store is your store—for while we have a complete stock of English clothes we never for a minute forget that the Stars and Stripes are the best bet in the lot!

Showing now—New Suits that are as American as Apple Pie.
$22.50 to $50.00
Strouse & Benson

Time magazine
The Beaver-Man
Monday, Mar. 26, 1928
(...)
“As American as baseball or apple pie” is what Biographer Irwin thinks his college mate (Herbert Hoover—ed.) is after years of industrious migrating.

22 July 1928, New York (NY) Times, “Mrs. Hoover, too has served the nation” by Anne Rerendeen, pg. 63:
All were, as one guest put it, “as American as apple pie or corn pone,” and through them all ran the motif of the eventual real home—the permanent home for which, from the first, treasures, mostly books, were collected—Mrs. Hoover finally built in 1921 at Palo Alto, overlooing the campus of Stanford.

Google Books
Josh Billings, Yankee Humorist
By Cyril Clemens
Published by International Mark Twain Society
1932
Pg. 178:
Josh Billings is as American as apple pie or the corncob pipe. No one could possibly mistake either his life or his work as emanating from any other country.

Google Books
Mexican Frieze
By Addison Burbank
New York, NY:  Coward-McCann, Inc.
1940
Pg. 5:
But in spite of these touches of foreignness we found Laredo as American as apple pie, and when we crossed the short, unimpressive span of the International Bridge over the gorge of the Rio Grande we felt ourselves thrust abruptly…

Google News Archive
29 December 1940, St. Petersburg (FL) Times, “Spring Colors Start to Flood Resort Towns” by Orry-Kelly, pg. 9?, col. 3:
When blouse and skirt are zipped off, Barbara in a pair of matching printed rompers, as American as apple pie.

Time magazine
Monday, Aug. 23, 1943
(...)
Two of TIME’S three top flight cover artists are Russian, but Baker is as American as apple pie.

Google Books
Gil Dodds:
The Flying Parson

By Mel Larson
Chicago, IL: The Evangelical Beacon
1945
Pg. 57:
“Unspoiled by fame...modest as a choir boy...American as apple pie...the kind of a fellow you’d like to have for a son or brother.”

Time magazine
Cherry Pie
Monday, Oct. 25, 1971
Hubert Geroid Brown was once a Boy Scout in his native Louisiana. At Baton Rouge’s Southern University, he majored in sociology for three years, then dropped out in 1962 before graduating to devote his energies to civil rights work, eventually for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. By the time he took over as S.N.C.C.’s national chairman from Stokely Carmichael in 1967, he had become H. Rap Brown, an intractable militant in the Afro hair style, sunglasses and denims that became his uniform.
(...)
Last week, after 17 months on the FBI’s Most Wanted list, Brown, 28, reappeared. The dramatic episode was a bitter elaboration on his mordant dictum: “Violence is as American as cherry pie.”

OCLC WorldCat record
As American as apple pie
by George M Saunders
Type:  Book; English
Publisher: [S.l. : L.J. Green, 1972?]
Related Subjects: Ancient Arabic Ordeer of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine for North America. 

OCLC WorldCat record
As American as apple pie
by Phillip Stephen Schulz
Type:  Book; English
Publisher: New York : Simon and Schuster, ©1990.
Editions: 2 Editions
Related Subjects: Cookery, American. 

OCLC WorldCat record
As American as apple pie
by Jeff Kriske; Randy Delelles
Type:  Musical score; English
Publisher: Las Vegas, Nev. : Kid Sounds, ©1993.
Related Subjects: Children’s songs. | Folk music—United States. | Music—Instruction and study. 

OCLC WorldCat record
American as apple pie
by Erich Kunzel; Johnny Bench; Frank Proto; John Philip Sousa; George Gershwin; Richard Hayman; Richard Rodgers; Cincinnati Pops Orchestra.
Type:  Musical CD : Marches; English
Publisher: Englewood Cliffs, NJ : VoxBox, 1994.

New York (NY) Times
Advertising
Baseball, Hot Dogs and Chevy, Redux

By STUART ELLIOTT
Published: June 30, 2006
CHEVROLET is reviving a popular 1970’s campaign featuring the musical theme “Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet,” which is being substantially updated to reflect the significant changes since then in baseball, Chevrolet and how marketers communicate with consumers.

The hot dogs and the apple pie stay pretty much the same, although they are being joined by contemporary treats like goat cheese pizza, bottled water and mochaccino.
(...)
Deutsch is a corporate sibling of Campbell-Ewald, the Chevrolet creative agency of record that produced the original version of “Baseball, hot dogs,” which began in fall 1974 and ran through 1976. Campbell-Ewald, which has worked for Chevrolet since 1914, and Deutsch are owned by the Interpublic Group of Companies.

(Trademark)
Word Mark AS AMERICAN AS APPLE PIE
Goods and Services (ABANDONED) IC 029. US 046. G & S: APPLE BUTTER. FIRST USE: 19820301. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19820301
Mark Drawing Code (1) TYPED DRAWING
Serial Number 73581680
Filing Date February 7, 1986
Current Filing Basis 1A
Original Filing Basis 1A
Owner (APPLICANT) PETLIN, INC. CORPORATION DELAWARE ROUTE 12, BOX 30 FREDERICKSBURG VIRGINIA 22405
Attorney of Record SCOTT G. SMITH
Type of Mark TRADEMARK
Register PRINCIPAL
Live/Dead Indicator DEAD
Abandonment Date October 23, 1986

(Trademark)
Word Mark AS AMERICAN AS APPLE PIE
Goods and Services (CANCELLED) IC 035. US 101. G & S: RENDERING TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE TO OTHERS IN THE ESTABLISHMENT OR OPERATION OF RESTAURANTS, CATERING SERVICES AND BAKERY SHOPS. FIRST USE: 19851202. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19851202
(CANCELLED) IC 042. US 100 101. G & S: RESTAURANT, CATERING AND BAKERY SHOP SERVICES. FIRST USE: 19851202. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19851202
Mark Drawing Code (1) TYPED DRAWING
Serial Number 73581700
Filing Date February 7, 1986
Current Filing Basis 1A
Original Filing Basis 1A
Published for Opposition May 12, 1987
Registration Number 1451226
Registration Date August 4, 1987
Owner (REGISTRANT) PETLIN, INC. CORPORATION DELAWARE BOX 30 ROUTE 12 FREDERICKSBURG VIRGINIA 22405
Assignment Recorded ASSIGNMENT RECORDED
Attorney of Record PERRY J. SAIDMAN
Type of Mark SERVICE MARK
Register PRINCIPAL
Live/Dead Indicator DEAD
Cancellation Date February 7, 1994

(Trademark)
Word Mark AS AMERICAN AS APPLE PIE
Goods and Services (CANCELLED) IC 042. US 100. G & S: restaurant, catering, bakery and gift shop services. FIRST USE: 19851202. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19851202
Mark Drawing Code (1) TYPED DRAWING
Serial Number 74449092
Filing Date October 21, 1993
Current Filing Basis 1A
Original Filing Basis 1A
Published for Opposition May 31, 1994
Registration Number 1850996
Registration Date August 23, 1994
Owner (REGISTRANT) Johnny Appleseed Restaurants, Inc. CORPORATION VIRGINIA 10000 Ashbridge Place Richmond VIRGINIA 23233
Attorney of Record BARBARA L. WAITE
Type of Mark SERVICE MARK
Register PRINCIPAL
Affidavit Text SECT 15. SECT 8 (6-YR).
Live/Dead Indicator DEAD
Cancellation Date May 28, 2005

(Trademark)
Word Mark AMERICAN APPLE PIE
Goods and Services (ABANDONED) IC 030. US 046. G & S: Ice cream
Standard Characters Claimed
Mark Drawing Code (4) STANDARD CHARACTER MARK
Serial Number 78771377
Filing Date December 12, 2005
Current Filing Basis 1B
Original Filing Basis 1B
Published for Opposition August 22, 2006
Owner (APPLICANT) Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Holdings, Inc. CORPORATION VERMONT 7 Burlington Square, P.O. Box 530 Burlington VERMONT 054020530
Assignment Recorded ASSIGNMENT RECORDED
Attorney of Record Mitchell A. Frank
Disclaimer NO CLAIM IS MADE TO THE EXCLUSIVE RIGHT TO USE “APPLE PIE” APART FROM THE MARK AS SHOWN
Type of Mark TRADEMARK
Register PRINCIPAL
Live/Dead Indicator DEAD
Abandonment Date May 15, 2007

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • Monday, January 19, 2009 • Permalink