Fruit Pies Unlike Anything Grandma Made

Banquet Fruit Pies

Banquet Fruit Pies

I Paid: 99 cents for a 7-ounce pie (prices may vary by region)

Taste: 1 stars

Marketing: 3 stars

Depending upon whom you ask, 2011 is either the Year of the Pie, the Year Before the Year of the Pie, or the Year After the Year of the Pie (for those clever Brooklynites who declare food trends before the rest of the country gets a chance to embrace them, only to declare those same trends "over" seemingly moments later).

Banquet, acting with the practiced cunning of a highly successful industrial food merchant, has jumped on board the trend with both feet, wheeling out frozen fruit pies. (The company is already the master of savory pies, with its ubiquitous frozen pot pies.)

I sampled Cherry Berry, Peach, and Apple versions, and here's the story in a nutshell: After paying 99 cents for your pie, you get about 25 cents' worth of pleasure. My unhappily scrawled notes on the flavor of the pies go like this: "Peach—lemon juice. Lard. Cherry Berry—McDonald's. Apple—nonexistent spicing. Filling like cheap jam." From defoaming agents to acetylated monoglycerides to sodium bisulfate, these pies aren't much like Grandma's, unless Grandma was a chemist specializing in the industrial application of food science.

Banquet did a good job of spotting the pie trend, but a bad job of understanding it. Pie is about simple tradition, and these little mass-marketed wonders are anything but simple.

James Norton edits the Upper Midwestern food journal Heavy Table. He's also the coauthor of a book on Wisconsin's master cheesemakers. Follow CHOW on Twitter, and become a fan on Facebook.