Bakery Bulletin by Philippa Kelly: The fuzzy origins of Key Lime Pie

Key Lime Pie by Kimberly Vardeman (Wikimedia Commons).
Key Lime Pie by Kimberly Vardeman (Wikimedia Commons).

What do the Hawaiian Crow, Wyoming Toad, and Black Soft-Shell Turtle all have in common?

The fact that I made them all up? No, they’re real, or at least they were. Oh dear - belated spoiler alert - they are extinct.

Well, in the wild at least. Never mind - they don’t sound that amazing anyway. It’s probably attitudes like mine that sped up their collective demise.

We were all too busy sending off a fiver a month to save the big, fluffy snow-cat to care about a black bird, an American frog, and a turtle whose name is a dead giveaway as to how it’ll die.

It’s not just some animals that only exist in captivity - I’m classing the crow as an animal here. And the toad. And the turtle - some plants do too.

The Persian lime, for example, not only doesn’t grow wild anywhere, but also only exists because we humans decided to make a different lime fool around with a lemon. Like a mule.

The story is like that of the mule, the lime isn’t like a mule, and nor is the manner in which they fooled around mule-like. At least, I don’t think it was.

So humans cultivate Persian limes, but there are other types of lime around, otherwise the Persian ones couldn’t have been made. Name a lime, any lime... No, me neither. Apologies if you said Key lime, but I didn’t hear you. Obviously.

Key limes are why a Key Lime Pie is called a Key Lime Pie. Who knew? Oh, I see. Is that common knowledge then? Oh. Key as in the Florida Keys. Again, that’s well-known is it? Right.

Key Lime Pie is more American than gun crime, which is probably why I’ve never eaten one. It’s made from the juice of Key limes, condensed milk, and egg yolks, all mixed up and dumped in a pie crust. Ok, so that’s why I’ve never eaten one - the ingredients list reads like a Spill Your Guts or Fill Your Guts skit (that’s like a Bush Tucker Trial, mummy).

Traditional Key Lime Pies are topped with meringue, but it’s not even that nice meringue like in a pavlova, it’s that nasty meringue like in a floating island. Wow, I’ve just remembered how wrong a floating island is.

The origin of Key Lime Pie is fuzzy. Its invention is ascribed to a botanist, a ship salvager, and to a sponge fisherman.

It’s the latter that I favour, and not just because I’m imagining a sponge dressed up as a fisherman. The story goes that fishermen in the Florida Keys had easy access to the aforementioned pie ingredients - albeit without the pastry crust. Or the oven - and so went about inventing an ostentatious dessert. Ok, so it’s not wholly believable. Maybe I do just like the image of Spongebob in waders.

In 1965, some Key Lime Pie fanatics tried to pass a bill that would force you to pay a fine if you baked a pie with regular limes but dared to call it a Key Lime Pie.

The bill failed. In 2006, Key Lime Pie became the official pie of Florida. I can’t imagine there was much competition, but this is America, so you never know - give it four years and Key Lime Pie might even be sworn in as President. Stranger things have happened. In an unrelated matter, I forgot to mention what makes a Key lime different from any other lime: they’re smaller, seedier, and more pungent and acidic.