The Debate of the Ages: Cake or Pie?

Hey Karl, cake or pie?

"There's pie?" asked Karl. "Never mind, I'm on Atkins right now. So, no carbs."

No, there's no pie, I said. Just answer the question: cake or pie?

"If there's no pie, then why are you even asking?" Karl plonked his beer on the bar. We were at First Editions for a slam poetry tournament. Kurt knew a few of the competitors so he made me come to this little struggle of the sonnets.

I didn't quite understand what was happening. How can poetry be competitive? And why was everyone snapping?! I've never quite understood poetry, and the snapping just made it worse.

It's a simple question, Karl. Which is better, cake or pie?

"Kid, of all the idiotic questions you've asked me, that has to be the idiotic-est. There are so many more important things we could discuss, and instead you give me 'cake or pie.'" Karl waved at Kurt to bring two more beers. "I don't want to even dignify that with a response."

Oh, it's a very important question, I said. I've seen people get into shouting matches over it.

"Well, it's a stupid question because the answer is obviously cake."

I knew it! I pegged you as a cake guy the first time we met. Because everyone knows pie is the superior choice.

"You're delusional, Kid. What about birthday cake? You can't beat birthday cake. But no one has ever heard of birthday pie."

True, but do you eat pumpkin cake at Thanksgiving?

Karl crossed his arms. "Maybe."


Sugar Cream Pie - the closest thing to Heaven on Earth.
"Okay, but have you ever seen a naked woman jump out of a pie?"

I can honestly say I have not. Of course, I've never seen a naked woman jump out of a cake either, except for that stupid Steven Seagal movie.

"Besides, there are so many kinds of cakes. Chocolate cake, angel food cake, and my favorite, lemon cake with vanilla frosting."

But there are just as many different flavors of pie. Cherry, raspberry, and what's more American than apple pie? Don't forget lemon meringue.

"I hate meringue," groused Karl.

You can't beat warm cherry pie with ice cream.

"You can have cake and ice cream," said Karl. Kurt hovered nearby, pretending to wipe down the bar.

Sure, but you don't normally serve it warm. But when you get a bite of warm pie and cold ice cream together, there's nothing better.

"What about cheesecake?" Karl said with annoying air of triumph.

I would counter with Indiana's official pie, the Wicks Sugar Cream.

"Oooh, I'll give you that one. Wicks makes a mighty fine pie." Karl took a drink from his beer, and listened to the poet up on stage talk about a broken heart. I had lost track of which broken-hearted poet was currently performing.

"How about pancakes?" said Karl. "You can't beat pancakes on a cold winter morning."

I've got it, I said. Pi.

"We've been through this," said Karl. "What kind of pie?"

Not pie, Pi. The Greek letter. The mathematical symbol. Three-point-one-four-one-five.

"That doesn't even count."

Sure it does. You can't spell 'pie' without Pi. And if I want to calculate the circumference of your birthday cake, I'll need to use Pi.

Karl stared at me, mouth open. I'll tell you something else, I said. Kurt stopped pretending to wipe down the bar and moved closer. Pi contains the secrets of the universe, I said.

"You're drunk, Kid."

I ignored him. As you know, Pi is an infinitely long number with no end. We could try to calculate the end of Pi on the most powerful computer ever made, and it will run to the end of time without ever reaching the end.

Now, if we were to assign each one- and two-digit number to a letter, we could find patterns in that infinite string of letters. Those patterns would form words, and those words would lead to sentences, and those sentences would become stories.

And with that infinite string of words, we can find your name and my name in there. We can find the secret recipe for Coca-Cola, or the Colonel's 11 secret herbs and spices, or the Wicks sugar cream pie recipe.

I pointed up at the stage. We can find that woman's poem, the words to your favorite song, or a version of every Shakespeare play where the word 'forsooth' has been replaced with 'Sweet Jeepers.' We can even find the kind of cake you had on your twelfth birthday and a list of everyone who came to your party.

I leaned in closer. Karl and Kurt did too. And the one thing we'll find, over and over again, ringing like a bell in all that infinity, is the most important phrase you'll ever say.

"What's that?" Karl whispered.

Erik was right all along, I said. Erik was right all along.

The crowd snapped its approval.

If you think this is a dumb question, ask some friends this question and ask them to defend their choice. See what happens and tell me about it in the comments below.

Photo credit: Sarah Stierch (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 2.0)

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