Pies, that staple of holiday meals, have proved highly adaptable over their long history. The original versions of the pie, which traced back to Egypt, commonly had meat fillings. The crusts were thick and carried more of the heft of the dish. Sometimes the legs of game birds were left hanging over the edge, to be used as handles. Those early-version pies were also long and thin, rather than the circular shape that sets our mouths watering today.
In America pumpkin pies and pecan pies may grace autumn feasts, peach and cherry pies may cap off summer barbecues, and the pie, in its many varieties, pops up in all sorts of places. The 35-pound game pies at the DuPont family reunion of 1950 invoke that early extravagance—American aristocrats dining in the manner of old European royalty. Yet the pie, in fruit form, shows up naturally in more quaint and rural settings. The church social. The town meeting. The boarding house. The roadside restaurant. Places that are as American as, well, apple pie.
Many of the images in this gallery are as homespun as it gets. And some of the pictures are hilarious. The cream pie is the sweet symbol of an era of vaudevillian slapstick.
Most novel deployment of a pie in a LIFE photograph? That distinction goes to Dean Martin and Peggy Lee, in the photo that closes the gallery.
Caterer William Newman brought 35-pound game pies to a DuPont family reunion in 1950. He had also served the DuPont reunion 50 years earlier.
With his distinctive facial features, comedian Bob Hope remained recognizable after taking a direct hit from a cream pie in 1962, with Soupy Sales and Shirley MacLaine alongside him at a benefit performance in Los Angeles.