It’s two days to the year since Hubig’s Pies’ bakery burnt down. While we await the rebuild approved by the New Orleans City Council in May, today’s Throwback Thursday reruns a piece that Love NOLA columnist Brett Will Taylor wrote that fateful morning last July.
They say you never forget your first love and, for me, my first love in this city I love was Hubig’s pies.
I’ll never forget the date (August 22, 2010) or the pie (apple). I had lived in New Orleans for exactly one week,I was exhausted from a move across country, and I was completely over the smelly armpit sauna that is the French Quarter in August. Checking out at Rouses I looked to my left and there, above the Cafe du Monde beignet mix and the Pat O’s hurricane mix, were two boxes of individually wrapped pies with a grinning baker on them.
“What are those?” I asked.
“Dem’s Hubig’s,” the cashier replied. “Try da chocolate.”
“I like apple,” I told her. Shaking her head, she said, “OK, but I told you to get da chocolate.”
I bought my pie, put it in my bag with the homemade Rouses pimento cheese, some Triscuits, and most likely a bottle of wine, walked outside, stepped over the tourists and the urine, unlocked the gate to my dark, dank, rat-infested alley and headed back upstairs to the oh-so-scary sublet I was renting. Standing at the kitchen sink, I took the pie out and tore off the top of the wrapper.
“I’ll have just a bite,” I told myself, reasoning that it was far too hot for that much sugar.
I ate that whole pie in about 30 seconds, wetting the tips of my finger to pick up the bits of crust that fell on the counter and, I’m not too proud to admit it, the floor, too (this pie’s too good for cockroaches, I told myself).
And, thus began my romance with Hubig’s.
When I’ve had it with New Orleans–the crime, the corruption, the streets, the heat, the tourists– Hubig’s saves the day and rekindles the torch I will always carry for this completely insane circus we call home.
When the nip of fall is in the air (meaning, when it’s 70), Hubig’s sweet potato pies put a spring in my step and a smile on my face (By the way, the only time I have ever seen anyone plan anything in New Orleans is when it’s Hubig’s sweet potato season. I and several of my friends can tell you precisely when they are delivered to Matassa’s and we plan our entire week around it.)
When the August sauna takes your breath away, Hubig’s strawberry pies tell me that New Orleans summers are worth it.
And, when I want to give out-of-town guests proof positive that New Orleans indeed is the best city in the world, I give them a Hubig’s pie. My favorite story on that note is when my friend from New England, Julie, visited. We were in the car, headed to Lafitte National Park to commune with nature–and the gators, when I told Julie that I needed to make a pit stop at Key’s Fuel Mart in the Treme.
“What do you need?” she asked.
“I’m going to get us some Hubig’s and a Diet Dr. Pepper.”
“Hubig’s. They’re fried pies. You’ll love them.”
“Sounds disgusting,” said the judgmental Yankee (Yeah, I know. Redundant) “Don’t get me one.”
So I didn’t. But I got myself one. An apple.
When I got back in the car, I told Julie that she really should take a bite.
“Will you stop talking about these stupid pies if I do?” she whined.
I tore off the top, handed it to her and watched that familiar buzzed look of euphoria come over Julie’s face.
The pie was gone before my wheels touched Rampart Street. “Oh my god,” was all she said.
“Oh my god” was what people all across New Orleans said this morning, as we awoke to the news that our beloved Hubig’s was claimed by a five-alarm fire. Followed by “oh no”…and a mad dash to scour the city for any remaining pies.
Then we prayed to god. Any god. Every god. We prayed that, in this city that rises up, again and again, so too will Hubig’s. My first love.
Oh…and god (aka Savory Simon)? Could you please make sure it happens by sweet potato season?
Brett Will Taylor is a southern Shaman who writes Love NOLA weekly for NolaVie. Follow him @bwtshaman or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org