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June 05, 2004



Also, it is my birthday. Happy birthday to me.


Happy birthday, Belle!


Cheesecake would be called cheesepie if that didn't make it harder to be served it on birthdays.

I got four cheesecakes one birthday. Much cheesecake was had. May that be my last memory on earth.


Happy birthday!

Also, I think of a pie as covered by doughy/crusty stuff, a cake as open-topped.


Pfff. Labels.

Mitch Mills

Happy Birthday!

As for why it's called cheesecake, I have two guesses. My first guess is that it's because pies can be savory or sweet, and cheese is generally associated with savory dishes. So, to most people the name cheese pie would imply something savory, e.g. tiropites. Cake on the other hand usually (always?) denotes something sweet. Also, maybe because there's no flour involved (or little; some recipes use it as a binder instead of cornstarch), plus cheesecakes usually don't have a pastry crust?

My other guess would be that somewhere along the line someone made a sloppy translation of torta while working from an Italian recipe for Torta di Ricotta or somesuch.

Some googling didn't provide anything definitive, but this is a nice article which talks about the New York and (Eastern European) Jewish roots of what most Americans think of when they say cheesecake. Looks like some nice recipes at the end of the article too. It also hints at Italian influences without explicitly mentioning Itallian Jewish cuisine.

This page also has some interesting information.

Mitch Mills

Um, I just re-read my post and realized that the lack of flour in a cheesecake actually cuts the other way, namewise (obviously). I plead fogged judgement due to salivating over the recipe and photos.


Also, I guess there is "Chess Pie", which is cheesepie, more or less cheescake topping baked in a pastry crust.


Is that an Ikea orange plastic plate? Are there any parents out there who don't own a set of those?


Yep, that's from Ikea. They should probably just issue a stack of them at the hospital when you give birth to save time. Cups, too.


Well that was a very tempting picture there Belle Waring, yes indeedy, almost had me going, getting ready to analyze the cheesepie. I did in fact begin my analyzations with the posit that the square root of pie is the root of all evil. Then I realized "hey, I don't want to eat any damn pie with a square root in it!"

So then the trouble started. Belle Waring started popping up with her pie everywhere I went saying stuff like:

"Hello, Good Day, I am Belle Waring
try my cheese pie,
it is for sharing."

"the time is nigh, Belle Waring
Rush has told me cheese pies
are likely loaded up with sarin
I do not want the sarin cheese
I do not think that it will please
I do not want cheese pie with sarin
I fear it as I fear you, Belle Waring"

"there is no cheese with sarin in it
you can finish it if I begin it!
The topping is cherries, like on a pie
it is a cheesecake with cherries placed on high
try it now, try it please
this is somehow involved with cheese
As my name is and has been Belle Waring
There is no cheese and in it sarin
try the cheesecake it is for sharing
you can have it with peaches
or have it with herring
a cheesepie cake it is so daring
as am I, for my name is Belle Waring!"

"Listen Lady, the war on terror
indicates pie confusion is in error
you may think it very daring
but I will not have it with herring
I refuse the cakepie with cherries unsparing
I refuse it categorical, Belle Waring!"

"To refuse would be uncouth
cakey cherrycheese 100 proof.
Of the gods it is the food,
when the gods are in cherrycheese mood,
and to refuse the gods is to be erring
so eat the damn pie, my name is Belle Waring."

"Okay, Geez, as Homer wrote
about Achilles who often smote
upon various Pelopenesian cheeses
and attic cherries of yore,
lest you get sore, Belle Waring
lest you get sore
I will eat the damn pie
though it seems a chore"

takes the pie, eats messily

"umm, say Belle Waring
this cheese pie is really good for sharing
I'll take another slice, or ten
and come back for seconds
again and again
I will eat it forever it is so good,
I will eat at sea, I will eat in the woods
I will top it with sauerkraut
I will top it with Sarin
I will top it with herring
It is the top cheesecake Belle Waring
It is the best pie with cherry cheese
why are you staring?

"You ate it all, every bite
I don't think it's nice
I don't think it's right
nor erudite or polite
to eat a person's cherry cheese thingee thing
and not leave a single slice
it was a something or other
and it was for sharing
you are a very bad fellow, my name is Belle Waring

dang, now my diet is ruined.


hell, your name probably isn't pronounced wearing. Is it?

Belle Waring

Bryan, my name is totally pronounced "wearing".


that's good, i didn't want to have to rewrite the whole thing, replacing wearing rhymes with warring rhymes. although coming up with a cover story for the apocryphal wearing version might be fun.

Mitch Mills

"Chess Pie", which is cheesepie, more or less cheescake topping baked in a pastry crust.

Whatcha talkin bout Belle Waring?

Unless my grandma's been making it wrong all these years, ain't no cheese (or even milk) in chess pie.

Except in the sense that the filling is similar to e.g. lemon curd, sometimes also called "lemon cheese" by people (Brits naturally) with no sense of marketing. I guess it sort of has a cheesy texture, or it's a liquid which has been thickened, as milk is thickened with rennet to make cheese. And I think curd and custard are related etymologically.

Belle Waring

You're right, Mitch. I looked around and most of the recipes are lemon-curd-ish. I make it with buttermilk, though, and I just had a vague memory that the "chess" was from "cheese".


Whatchoo talkin bout Belle? That cake is definitely a pie. And a delicious lookin pie! Oh, now I'm hungry for cheesecake, an all I have down here are monkeys and Giblets. "I call the monkeys," says Giblets. So very hungry.


A rather small forum I post on once managed to clock up about two hundred posts on precisely what constituted pie.

Be warned.


I mean, throw shepherd's pie into the discussion, and all bets are off.

Mitch Mills

Oh yeah, grandma makes an inCREDibly delicious pie that's like a chess pie but with buttermilk added. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. But I think we just call it "Buttermilk Pie". I'll have to check with her, maybe even go over and make one with her.

And I poked around in my cookbooks. Lots of variations on chess pie, some substituting vinegar for lemon juice, some with a little cornmeal added, several with buttermilk, and even one with cream added. So who knows, it may even have originally had cheese in it at some point, or at least the beginnnings of cheese, curdled milk.

Oh, and I checked and curd and custard don't seem to be related etymologically. Of course curd and curdle are. Custard is related to crust, crostata, etc.

Damn I'm hungry!


What am I, the polite, ignored girl? A pie has a doughy/crusty covering, a cake does not. Hence, cheesecake. From the OED definition of pie: "A dish composed of meat, fowl, fish, fruit, or vegetables, etc., enclosed in or covered with a layer of paste and baked."

You can torture "enclosed in" if you like, but I think the meaning is pretty plain. So yeah, fafnir is just monkey wrong, and this after I linked so approvingly a few days ago.

Fontana Labs

Ogged, dictionary definitions are the last refuge of a scoundrel, but in this case I'm on your side. The cheesecake has a crust base but not really a proper all-around-the-filling crust. Enclosure doesn't work for the 'open-faced' pies, like pumpkin, but even there there's an all-but-the-top crust. Close enough to count, I think.


I believe that "Mrs. Joy" (Irma S. Rombauer) discussed possible etymologies for "chess pie"; my favorite (but probably false) one it that it was "jes' pie."


Fontana, agreed. I left the OED out of my first comment, expecting universal acclamation and thanks, but then everyone ignored me, and damn, you can't ignore a blogger.


How good that we agree. What's really sad about this whole thing is that we don't get 20-something comments on anything at that other blog and Belle does it with dessert.


ogged you are crazy. Your definition would exclude not just the Boston cream pie and the Shepherd's pie but the noble and evertrue Pumpkin pie. If a pumpkin pie is not a pie, wellthen I do not want to live in a world with your cold mechanical robot pies!


Fafnir is right. I do not eat pecan cake. Neither do I eat key lime cake. In a sane world, all cakes would be square and all pies would be round and we'd all join hands and raise songs of praise for our precise dessert categories. Bundt would be neither cake nor pie, but in a category with doughnuts.

But the world is insane. And I have only been able to secure three and twenty blackbirds for my cake.

Fontana Labs

I refer you to my earlier publication (June 8, 2:24) in which I anticipate the objection you raise. Thus I do not have to answer it.


Alvin Goldman


What Fontana said Alvin Goldman said.

Fafnir, it's pretty nervy to interview a pumpkin one day, and talk in glowing terms about dead mashed cooked pumpkin the next. I'm just saying.


Hey, I don't mean to be alarming anyone but has anybody actually seen that enormous pumpkin after Fafnir interviewed him, I mean that's sort of unusual isn't it:
enormous pumpkin gets interviewed, enormous pumpkin seemingly disappears off the face of the earth afterwards(difficult for an enormous pumpkin to do), Fafnir shows up acting innocent but discussing how tasty crushed pumpkins are.


The enormous pumpkin happens to delight in the knowledge that one day it might become an enormous pumpkin pie. It is a great aspiration for all pumpkins.

As for your previous blah blah blah Alvin, Shepherd's pie has no side crust. In fact it does not have a pastry crust at all. Is Shepherd's pie not a pie? O cruel Alvin! Your world of cold mechanical fascist pies which are cold and mechanical! And fscist!


In fact I believe the enormous pumpkins said that one of his future projects would be becoming either an enormous pumpkin pie, or an enormous number of smaller pumpkin pies. We talked for hours! But only a short bit could be on the web because of FCC regulations. Regulations regarding pumpkins.


Well fafnir, it seems I have caught you out, it seems you have been untruthful and have been so for your own nefarious purposes.
I happen to know that the enormous pumpkin while blithe and jovial on its rind was in its seeds, its enormous pumpkin seeds, beset by inner turmoil because of its desire to someday be an apple fritter.

Oh fafnir, if indeed that is what you are calling yourself nowadays Giblets, can't you see how this path of dishonesty is causing you to despoil various sundry fruits, vegetables, and even ferns that never did you any harm?


ooooo thank you so much...i now know what digestive biscuits are!
lowly graham crackers!



Now you are just confusin me bryan. Giblets is right here sittin in the inflatable chair. "I am stuck in its inflatableness" says Giblets. Anybody can see that.


And why is he stuck? he is stuck because he squashed the enormous pumpkin, baked it into a pie, and ate it. Look at him, he looks very guilty, also somewhat overweight. I realize now it was not you fafnir, it was never you, it was Giblets all the time.
And now that pumpkin, that heroic beast, will never attain its true destiny as an apple fritter. Truly this is the saddest phrase of all known to vegetable-kind "hey, this doesn't taste too bad."

Another Damned Medievalist

Ahem -- I will now opine:

First, digestive bikkies are kind of like graham crakers, but much more deliciously fibrous and hold up much better to sweet, milky tea.

Second, the chef that inhabits my body on occasion says, "silly rabbits! pies are baked in pie pans or plates (and occasionally deeper disshes for deep-dish and savory varieties) and have crusts that serve as containers for the filling. Shepherd's pie is pie only because it's as 'like' a pie as you can get without pastry (arguably, the potatoes make a crusty substitute). Pizza is also pie. Cheesecake is not pie, because it's baked in a cake pan (springform or not). In fact, cakes are generally baked in cake pans or forms. They are also generally leavened, which pies aren't.

I have a recipe at home, from the old Woman's Day Encyclopedia of Cookery that has a recipe for what looks and feels and tastes like cheesecake (graham cracker crust; cream cheese, egg, sugar, and vanilla filling; sour cream, sugar, vanilla, tinge of cinnamon topping) but shallow and baked in a pie tin. Its name? "Jay's Cheese Pie."

Finction follows form.

Another Damned Medievalist

er ... that would be function

Kate Petersen

I rather like "finction," myself. :)


Alton Brown says cheesecake is a custard.

Another Damned Medievalist

But then, what is custard pie? I thought AB (one of my heroes, BTW) said that the filling/main part of cheesecake was a custard -- but I'm not sure that it keeps it from being pie or cake, since there are custard pies and pudding (a type of custard) cakes.

BTW, Belle, do you make tapioca with coconut milk? My sister-in-law is Thai, and she makes it that way -- mine's an approximation, but wins fans here on the left coast.


ADM--I never make tapoica, because, as i have lamented here before, John does not like pudding. In fact, he particularly dislikes tapoica. He will eat a homemade chocolate pudding, grudgingly, but rice and tapioca puddings are right out. De gustibus, etc. So I just order various textured puddings from thai and Indian restaurants, or make rice pudding for my mom sometimes. At the Thai restaurant near us they do make tapoica with coconut milk and it it damn tasty. With pandan leaf, naturellement.


Speaking of cheesecakes, verse, and the OED, I found my favorite cheesecake verse in the OED:

"Effeminate he sat, and quiet,
Strange product of a cheesecake diet."

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