The Hero’s Journey (Is to Find Key Lime Pie)

Last Bite

The final day, the final pie, the final (sob!) bite.
Crusty shot by Jessie Rosen

Many writers have drawn on an ancient structure of storytelling, where a hero is on a quest for something bigger than him or herself, travels to wondrous places, encounters titanic obstacles and challenges, wins a decisive victory and returns to share the bounty. Joseph Campbell explored this narrative pattern, the monomyth, in Hero with a Thousand Faces, upon which the Star Wars movies were based. But neither Campbell nor George Lucas ever told you that the quested object was actually Key Lime pie.

They didn’t tell you, because they wanted it all to themselves.

I know that because I have just returned from the Florida Keys, where for five days I had Key Lime pie with every meal. You might think that would have exhausted any further investigation into Key Lime pie for the rest of my days. Your thought would be wrong.

It took strength, courage and discernment for a group of five writers (and one relentlessly hungry trip leader) to take on the solemn responsibility of approaching each piece of pie on its own merits, and the debates were many and heated. Meringue or whipped cream? Tart or sweet? Graham cracker crust or ginger snaps? And what about the subtleties: high meringue or low? Add a sliver of coconut? A tot of coffee? Swords—or at least forks—are drawn over lesser matters.

The Place of Pie in Personal Evolution

Those “they” that say all the things they say, say travel is broadening. They weren’t talking about spiritual insights and personal evolution; they were talking about belly-patting pleasures. Our group paddled on gleaming waters, gaped at remote national parks, pulled colorful fish from the deep sea and much more, but really, journeys are all about the food. The Keys will ply you with the freshest of fish, the richest of sauces, the most fritterish of conchs. But the key that both closes the door on the meal and opens the palate all over again is the Key Lime pie.

One of the writerly stalwarts on this hero’s journey was photojournalist Seattle Dredge (and could there ever be a better novelist’s character name for an intrepid female detective?). At first I found it curious that she took photographs of every dish at every meal. Sure, food porn shots have been a popular pursuit for photographers for a while, but every dish? But then I started to get into it, and was actually worried once or twice that she might overlook one of the meals (and more worried yet that a slice of pie might escape the lens). But no, every piece of pie was locked into digital history.

I hope that some grinning mountaineer has put a piece of Key Lime pie on top of Everest, where it will wait for yet one more hero to surmount the great mount, taste its icy tartness, and bring the rest back to those waiting below, handing monomyth and meringue forward into the future.


While I was in the Keys, I was given The Ultimate Key Lime Pie Cookbook. The book suggests there are 150,000 pie combinations. Now that is a hero’s journey.

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4 thoughts on “The Hero’s Journey (Is to Find Key Lime Pie)

  1. My taste these days runs to various combinations of fruit, with just flour, sugar (trying stevia next), corn starch & cinnamon. Forged in heat, these simple pies avoid the excess sugar, salt & fats that so many commercial food companies add in our culture today.
    Key Lime would seem to bypass those sins & aim for health, too.
    Here’s to healthy pies! And a big “meh” to fillers and chemicals.

  2. I did not know that you live the big KLP almost as much as I.

    When do we start our investigation into all 150K versions? At 3 per day, that’s 50K days, or about 133 years

    We’ll have to do 2 per meal.

  3. Rick, I don’t know if the purveyors of KLP aim for health or have just found a perfect (and simple) expression of lime-laden goodness. But yes, most of these places I gobbled pies made them on the premises, and made them with care. And the one I had at the Fish House in Key Largo came with homemade coconut ice cream. Swoon…

  4. Joel, I admire both your ambition and your math skills. And two per meal is certainly doable; I’d guess that eating two pieces of Key Lime pie per day might extend one’s life to 133 years. And they won’t have to toss in any limestone when they bury me.

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