“Looking for a unique taste delight? Try ‘Grasshopper Pie!’” exclaimed 1960s’ The Women’s Editor April article in Connecticut. It is certainly no wonder why the United States has such high rates of obesity. Although America faces many many many problems, deliciousness certainly isn’t one. From apple pie to deep fried cheesecake to ambrosia salad, the United States has truly come up with a dessert for just about every palette. These desserts came about from the demands of women in the 1960s, such as materialism in the kitchen.
There are many interesting desserts which came about in the middle of the twentieth century, and one of those is grasshopper pie. In a century of culinary cultivation and creativity, the 1900s saw a rise in “icebox” desserts – or so-called “no-bake” pies that didn’t require baking. This pie is a reflection of the decade and century it came from. It was a century of modernity. There was a great wave of consumerism. The migration to suburbia swept the nation. It became an ideal; And with that lifestyle came a renewal of great family values and luxury. The grasshopper pie is a cultivation of that suburban American dream.
Grasshoppers? In a pie? Seems as if a customer sent back a dessert one too many times and a deranged baker sought revenge, right? Fortunately enough, the grasshopper pie written about here contains no bugs or insects and is up to FDA code. Although there is a grasshopper pie which contains actual grasshoppers, the popularized one of the 1950s and 1960s is made from the cocktail dubbed a grasshopper. The American grasshopper pie dates back to the mid-1900s, whereas the other grasshopper pie (i.e. the one with actual grasshoppers) dates back much further with newspaper articles from 1901. The original grasshopper pie (i.e. the insect one) was, and possibly still is a staple dessert of the Philippines. Grasshoppers are traditionally served baked or sun dried with chocolate sprinklings and/or brown sugar. Sometimes it was served with confectioner’s sugar if available. During the early 1900s, many articles told bold adventures of newsmen venturing and daringly eating local Philippine cuisine, most regaled audiences and readers with a story of how they ate grasshoppers and lived to tell the tale. The grasshopper pie with insects dates back much further than the early 1900s though, potentially well into the 1800s. To better imagine this grasshopper pie, one ought to think of cookies and creme with Oreo chunks. The grasshoppers would remain entirely intact (baked of course). The grasshopper pie of the mid century 1900s which became popular with housewives and more middle and upper class hotels and restaurants alike gets its name from the cocktail: Grasshopper.
The grasshopper cocktail came about during the early 1900s. Interestingly enough, it has many people who claim to be the inventor of the drink. In a newspaper article published on July 28th, 1966, Lawrence Pugh is credited with its creation in 1949. He stated, “The American people seemed to be very fond of chocolate covered mints, so I blended the chocolate and mint liqueurs and found it delicious”(Glenn). His wife is also credited with the original recipe for grasshopper pie, yet there isn’t a date given for the creation of her version of the recipe. Additionally, the article speaks to a friend of Mrs. Pugh who found the pie being served at a hotel in Virginia. Although some unscholarly sources will claim that the grasshopper pie was created by many other different people, the only publication of the 1900s that I found which has laid claim was of Mrs. Pugh’s recipe, potentially from 1949. Although the article does not explicitly state that Mrs. Pugh’s recipe was created in 1949, it does imply this.
There are many versions of grasshopper pie as one would expect of any pie claiming fame. Some recipes, such as Mrs. Viola Hellwig’s, call for 30 large marshmallows (Hellwig). Whereas other recipes, such as Mrs. Pugh’s, calls for only 20 large marshmallows (Glenn). The recipes differ in other ways too, such as the pie crust. Mrs. Pugh’s crust uses ground up chocolate wafers whereas Mrs. Viola’s has graham cracker crust. It seems that chocolate and mint is the way to go. The pie itself is somewhat gooey, yet firm, like a smooth gelatin/pudding consistency. The crust adds a nice, much needed crunch to the filling mixture. It tastes as if a thin mint were a pie. Honestly, this one is going in the recipe book as it actually is a “delight” as The Women’s Editor put it in 1960. It would be great for both winter and summertimes. Though, it seems more proper for a spring or fall given the peppermint. The chocolate of the crust really ties it all together. It is interesting that Mrs. Hellwig would propose this with a graham cracker crust. The mint seems to pair best only with a chocolate crust at first taste. But, she probably got her name in a newspaper article for good reason. So, a graham cracker crust is worth a shot. This pie’s oldest, perhaps original recipe (i.e. Mrs. Pugh’s) is relatively simple to make, but patience is definitely required. Like many other desserts, this pie proved to be difficult. I have primarily worked only with baked pies, never an icebox pie. When chilling the marshmallows, I was worried that the mixture would become too dense to fold in the whipped cream later. I was proven right, I had to heat the marshmallows slightly in order to fold in the whipped cream because the marshmallow mixture kept breaking and was like jello. The pie showed its age when the whipped cream called for no vanilla and no sugar, so I was worried the pie would be, well, gross with the nasty whipped cream. Unfortunately, this pie will probably not inebriate anyone by just one slice. The creme de menthe adds the green hue to it. The pie itself is of an interesting taste. Thankfully, not of crunchy grasshoppers, but of a kind of goopiness that feels more floppy after chilling, which leads me to believe that it wasn’t chilled right. Perhaps my roommate opened the refrigerator too many times. I was quite worried about the crust to green goop mixture. Unfortunately, I was proven correct as the pie crust did not hold all the filling, or as my roommate affectionately dubbed it, slime. After refrigeration, I tried freezing it overnight, then placed back in the refrigerator for the day and it seemed to do the trick to keep it firm, yet not frozen, much better than what is discussed in the recipe.
The grasshopper pie was a creation of modernization. As technology developed, such as refrigeration and other kitchen appliances and tools, there was a rise in creativity of desserts during the mid century, such as fruit molds, jellos, ambrosia, and many different pies. Icebox pies, specifically, called for a great deal of technology as refrigeration is a key element in the making of these types of desserts. Although technology is one of the reasons for the increase of creativity for desserts during the 1950-1960s, another is the economy. The American economy during the times of the 1950s and 60s was quite stable. There was a great rise in the population of what was considered to be middle class. According to Women’s Magazines, 1940-1960: Gender Roles and the Popular Press, “The percentage of Americans who were married increased from 60 percent in 1940 to 68 percent in 1960, and the number of families increased by 28 percent between 1947 and 1961. The size of the family increased as well: Between 1940 and 1945 alone, the birth rate increased from 19.4 to 24.5 per 1000 population” (Walker). This means more marriages and more families; With the boost in marriages and families reinforced the American ideals which dates back to the 1800s, family values deepened their roots into American culture. The term, “American Dream”, seeped into the post-war culture. Coupling this with the Cold War patriotism, one has a good idea of much of the ideals many Americans held dear in the 60s. Referring to this matter, the Women’s Magazines states “The democratic..way of life became crystallized…as the freedom to choose one’s own house and labor-saving devices” (pg 18). The American Dream of a suburban white picket fence house was somewhat attained by many during this time. The American dream kitchen had all the latest gadgets of the time. Patriotism was high and materialism was in, at least for suburbia. According to the magazine article, Just Like Home Home Cooking and the Domestication of the American Restaurant, “Heavily advertised and promoted in women’s magazines, the new blenders, ovens, mixers, refrigerators, and skillets fitted perfectly the demands of modern, urban life” (Barbas). Women became the main product market for consumer goods of the kitchen. According to Women’s Magazine, “Even earlier, Sarah Hale, as editor of Godey’s Lady Bood, had identified being a consumer as one of women’s ways to exert power…” (Walker). Women would use materialism as a status symbol during the 1960s. Via those “women’s ways to exert power” lots of these types of desserts were created, some terrifying, some delicious. The grasshopper pie seems to fall towards deliciousness.
Food shows us a perspective of history which allows us to examine the time frame in a different light than what could be examined through just politics or other basic historical lenses. Through grasshopper pie, one can see the modernization of life during the 1960s. Icebox pies were a result of the modernization. This is a recipe that is fairly easy to make. The crust is the most difficult part as it requires making a pie crust. However, this pie crust is much easier than a regular apple or blueberry pie crust.
Barbas, Samantha. “Just Like Home: ‘Home Cooking’ and the Domestication of
the American Restaurant.” Gastronomica, vol. 2, no. 4, Nov. 2002, pp. 43–52.
Glenn, Camille. “Chocolate, Mint Liqueurs Go Into Festive Grasshopper Pie.” Philadelphia
Daily News, 28 July 1966.
“Grasshopper Pie Captures Contest for Mrs. Hellwig.” The Belleville Times, 17 Dec. 1964.
Walker, Nancy A. “Women’s Magazines, 1940-1960.” Google Books, Google, 1998,