The demise of Darby’s Pies this week brings mixed emotions.
All great eras come to an end, and in the aftermath you ponder not so much why, but rather pie?
Darby’s has been a Hunter icon over the decades. Most famous perhaps for its $1 pies that inevitably left you with, if not an appreciation of value, a bit of reflux.
The business model flourished in the tradition of other great Hunter culinary outlets, like Henny Penny.
But perhaps it over-reached. A victim of changing tastes, maybe. Or more exacting.
To be fair, there’s more to a pie than any thought it’s good for you.
The appeal pushes from the logical to the poetic, possibly to take your mind off what you might be eating.
The pie has always been a bit of a mystery bag, steeped in reality. How many of us have wondered just what might be inside, and then decided to forego that thought as images of a grinder and whatever was left over on the butcher’s floor sprang to mind?
Bespoke, but not spoken about, too much.
Because a pie is more than just a pie.
It can be a memory, a smell, crumbs on the jumper, a stream of hot lava running over your fingers as your mouth attempts to tame the molten river in the manner of an ant eater. Often unsuccessfully.
Modern attempts to verify the contents have pushed it past a price point many are unwilling to go.
Thus we’re left with the ideals of what makes a great pie.
Flaky pastry that peels in layers? A lid that lifts without too much prizing? Filling that’s not too overtly ligament based?
I once had demonstrated to me the amount of fat in one pie – equivalent to the mass of rubber string you find inside a squash ball apparently.
Even that doesn’t unravel just how good a good pie tastes in the eating.
With sauce, if that’s your hang-up.
Because there’s a time and a place for everything. And for pies that might be after a surf. At the football. During a servo break on a long distance road trip. Actually, steer clear of those pies – they’re bad news.
We all have regrets, but if that pie’s washed down with a carton of chocolate milk, you might well delay those too. For a while. But you knew they were coming. And yet you still went there, enthusiastically. Like love.
Alas, it seems there’s no longer a time and place for Darby’s pies, though the affection remains.
It’s hard to go out on your own terms.
Just ask sacked ABC boss Michelle Gurthrie, although an instant dismissal clause was apparently in her contract.
Not sure about Justin Milne’s though.
Even the great Billy Slater may not get the privilege just yet, although the judiciary kindly saw fit this week to move him 80 minutes closer to a grand exit.
And so, as the sun sets on Darby’s we will remember them, fondly, and perhaps burp a little as we reach for a serviette.
If not to dry a tear, then to wipe away the grease.