Garth George: By Georgie, it's a top week for pie-lovers

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My heart leaped the other day when I read that the iconic Georgie Pie fast-food chain might be about to make a comeback.

Anyone who has read this column for any length of time will know that I am a lifetime devotee of the hot pie, and consider that whoever it was who first decided that meat would go well in a pastry crust should have been allotted a large one of heaven's many mansions.

And that it is a meat pie - and any other sort of pie, for that matter - that I would request should I find myself offered a last meal before execution.

My memories of Georgie Pie are not the younger ones of which you have read on this page this week, but those of a mature connoisseur of the product who enjoyed many a scrumptious meal at the restaurant which once inhabited the corner of West Coast and Great North Rds, just round the corner from where I lived in Glen Eden.

Their large mince'n' cheese, steak'n' cheese and pork pies in particular (I have never been into the seafood variety) accompanied by chips were always a treat and I never tired of them.

Then there were the boysenberry pies with the sugar on top and a delicious apple pie served with icecream which I relished from time to time.

And the prices were right, too - $1, $2, $3 and $4 meals - which attracted a huge family trade. The one thing we can be sure of if the franchise is revived is that those prices will remain but a fond memory.

Then Georgie Pie ceased to exist, bought out and closed down by McDonald's, which lusted after Georgie Pie's sites. I have always wondered why, and the answer has come at last.

McDonald's spokeswoman Kate Porter said the other day that McDonald's was "intrigued at the level of passion for the Georgie Pie brand and [we've] put some concepts into research".

It's sure taken a lot of years for this United States-based international outfit to understand Kiwis' love affair with pies, but then multinationals rarely take any interest in the countries they invade, seeming to take it for granted that what people in the US want, the whole world must want, too.

I don't know how many hamburgers McDonald's sells in a year, but I do know that Kiwis buy 70 million pies a year, which is just on 17 each for every man, woman and child in the land. Surely even 10 per cent of that market would coin a good profit.

Mind you, it's not as if there aren't some great pies available, and in that regard I am well-off here in Rotorua, but it is always a case of pot luck when you buy one from other than a known supplier. Over the years I have developed a scale of one to 10 for meat pies and too often I'm served with a five or a six instead of the eights and nines I buy from Owhata Bakery and Gold Star respectively.

(Mind you, no pie has ever stood up to the ultimate test - my own steak and kidney pie made from the leftovers of long and gently casseroled topside, sheep's kidneys, carrot and onion, which has been kept in the fridge for a day or so.)

The thing about Georgie Pie is that you knew what you were getting every time and you could sit down and enjoy it with other pie-lovers.

Buy a pie and chips in a cafe these days and you get disapproving looks from pale, pursed-lip patrons picking at salads.

I'm not a bit surprised that one website contains 20,000 members devoted to the slogan "Bring back Georgie Pie", or that the Herald's website should have received hundreds of responses to its question: "Would you like to see the return of the Georgie Pie franchise"?

Nearly all the responses were enthusiastically "Yes!", but of course there were a few of those poor, sad people who see all fast foods as responsible for our alleged epidemic of obesity.

These are the people who harp on endlessly - and dishonestly - about "junk food" and "unhealthy" food. They are liars.

Fast food is not junk. It contains legitimate, nutritious ingredients, is prepared in generally spotlessly hygienic surroundings and provides a convenient, tasty and filling meal without the need to prepare it or clean up after.

Fast food - be it fish and chips, hamburgers, fried chicken, pizza or pies, all of which I am fond of - or any one of the other multitudinous offerings to be found in today's food halls - is a modern-day blessing for which society has cause to be grateful.

The return of Georgie Pie would make it even more so.

* garth.george@hotmail.com

- NZ Herald

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