NOTE: It’s an exciting day on this site. The Olympics have started … I mean, my friend Laura McKnight penned her first piece for this site, and it’s a good one. Laura wrote about New Orleans institution Hubig’s Pies burning down in the early morning hours on Friday near her house. She also provided photos. Talented lady, that Laura McKnight.
I’m a pretty big fan of most South Louisiana specialties – crawfish, Abita beer, Zapp’s potato chips, king cake, Bourgeois beef jerky, etc., etc. – but there are a few things that make me feel like a traitor to my roots: I rather my coffee without chicory, I’m ambivalent about oysters, and I’m pretty sure I have never in my life eaten a sugar-glazed Hubig’s Pie.
That’s right. I have never eaten a Hubig’s Pie, not even with the factory sitting on the next block from my house. I walk past that factory almost every day, often multiple times a day, sometimes catching a whiff of fried sweetness in the air, and I have not tasted one. They just never tempted me, not even with the happy little baker man smiling at me from the front of the bags.
So I don’t even know if I like Hubig’s Pies. But I like the idea of Hubig’s Pies. I dig the happy retro logo, I dig the fried-ness, and I really like living on a block nestled between a cheerful pie factory and the Lost Love Lounge. There’s a metaphor for my life somewhere in that.
A little background for the unfamiliar, and some would say unfortunate: Hubig’s is one of those uniquely New Orleans/South Louisiana icons like K&B, Mr. Bingle, the Special Man on the Frankie and Johnny’s commercials. Hubig’s history in New Orleans goes back to 1921, the factory on Dauphine Street to 1924. Flappers were eating these pies while doing the Charleston.
And like anything uniquely New Orleans, especially anything retro that can be screen-printed onto a T-shirt or made into a group Mardi Gras costume, Hubig’s has a fiercely loyal following. I mean diehard fierce, as in this fire at the pie factory is nothing short of a catastrophe.
There will be T-shirts made any moment now, I guarantee it. As I write this, someone is coming up with a snappy slogan and sketching out a nifty design. And I will want to buy one.
I also want to buy my first Hubig’s Pie, but I cannot afford one. There is one reportedly listed on eBay right now for $500. (Ed. Note: One eBay seller is asking $500 for 36 pies!!!
Now let’s talk about this five-alarm fire. Apparently, I slept straight through the raging part of the raging inferno, the part where fire trucks with loud sirens raced to my street and nearly 100 firefighters swarmed within feet of my house. I was tired.
I do vaguely remember drifting into consciousness at some point and smelling smoke. My brain functioned just long enough to notify me that yes, I had turned off all the knobs on the stove, and then question whether I should get up and double-check the house for a raging inferno. Should I? That question was never answered because I drifted back into sleep.
I figured the smoke could be the residual effects of a burger-broiling incident from earlier that night, when I had walked into the house craving meat. I had never before cooked hamburgers, partly because I am terrified of poisoning myself with E. coli. But I was hungry. I struggled to broil the burgers because the three frozen patties stuck together no matter what I did. I gave up on separating them and just stuck the entire mound of burger in a baking pan and set the oven to broil. I peeked inside a few minutes later and saw little progress being made, so I went upstairs to relax.
A few minutes later, smoke alarms started screaming. I ran downstairs, navigating through faint smoke to turn off the oven. Then I took out a skillet and fried up the burgers. They were delicious.
I woke at 6:30 a.m. to a text message from a friend who thought she needed my help in printing out a form to audition for “Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?” (Insert your own phone-a-friend joke here).
Groggy, I compulsively turned on my laptop and saw the World Wide Inter-Webs filled with stories about a big fire at the Hubig’s Pie factory.
Hold up…the Hubig’s Pie factory?!
Now fully awake, I ran over to my window and looked out and sure enough, found a dramatic scene. Fire trucks and Hubig’s pie delivery vans, firefighters and people in their pajamas, a giant crane shooting water into the charred remains of the pie factory.
I dug out my camera and started snapping pictures furiously through my third-floor window. Then I did the Curious Onlooker thing and ran outside in my pajamas with my hair sticking out to take more pictures and gawk.
I have never seen fire wreckage like that. It looked like a firebomb went off. Or a fire tornado swept through.
Now I want a Hubig’s pie, but at least for now, I may have to settle for a T-shirt. That’s how it goes.
As I walked home tonight, I passed the site again. In the dark, the place looked like a charred hole, a black hole on Dauphine Street. I could still smell smoke. I stopped for a moment and sniffed. I thought I detected just a little hint of something fried and sweet.