“Nothing left but a grease spot.”
Before he knew where in the building the Hubig Pie Factory fire started, Rick told me first thing when he got up Friday morning that, “Hubig Pies burned to the ground last night. Nothing left but a grease spot.” Later in the day, the news reported that the fire started in the fry area at about 4:30 AM–not making Rick prescient, but where else would a fire start in a fried pie factory? I was a block away from the Hubig factory just hours before the fire. If I had remembered that the factory was in the vicinity where I was photographing, I would have wandered over and gotten a shot. I would have wanted a photograph of that sign, anyway. I drove past it many times when I stayed in the Bywater one summer. At night, the spectral ghost of the blue neon against the pale brick building created quite a good effect. The factory was right in the middle of the working class Marigny neighborhood, surrounded by colorful, shuttered, and mostly rundown shotgun houses with tw0-step front stoops.
Hubig pies are important to Rick because they provided a good supply of them for the goody bags for the performers in the New Orleans Burlesque Festival. The supply of pies was so ample the first three years of the festival, that I got quite a few, too. Hubig’s was generous in providing pies to New Orleans events as promotion and diplomacy, despite the Hubig pie boy lapse in the K Doe effigy episode. Hubig’s certainly weren’t stingy–they believed in the baker’s dozen, plus some. That generosity contributed to the good will that has now left New Orleanians more grief-stricken, and perhaps even more fearful, because of the pie fire than the four murders that took place later on the day the factory burned down.
After the New Orleans Burlesque Festivals, most of my pies ended up in my suitcase and traveled back to the beyond of the Midwest, where they eventually got eaten, flattened as they were. The American diet has become a chemistry wizard’s concoction of ingredients that appeal to the palette and make non-processed food unpalatable by comparison, but Hubig’s used no science. They had everything any Southerner knows you need to make food taste good–fat and sugar. Hubig pies were fried and coated with white sugar icing. The only thing missing is bacon, and, who knows, with the current trend for combining bacon and chocolate and other sweets, maybe Hubig’s was about to come out with a bacon-chocolate pie. They vowed to come back, so maybe they still will.
It’s interesting that Hubig’s, which has been in New Orleans since 1922, started in Texas. The New Orleans operation was an adjunct, but outperformed the Texas business, prompting Hubig’s to close the Texas enterprise and focus on New Orleans. Now, why did Hubig’s pies succeed in New Orleans, but not Texas, where people also like to eat? I heard one of the people on a news interview after the fire say that it was a good product, that you could hold it in your hand, making it perfect for lunch. For lunch?! Surely even in New Orleans it’s uncommon to have a Hubig’s pie for lunch. But you know the local news, and how imprecisely people talk when they’re eulogizing an institution they once took for granted.
I won’t be able to see how Savory Simon is represented now, and by now I mean the day before yesterday, because I never found time to run to the store to buy a Hubig’s pie before the fire. Now there’s not a Hubig’s pie to be found for hundreds of miles. I will endeavor, however, to drive over to the location and photograph the grease spot.