A Depression-Era Dessert that Proves Women are Incredible Superheroes

Liz Jin
3 min readJul 9, 2021

Jesus may have turned water into wine, but women found a way to turn water into pie

Water Pie was invented during the Great Depression; image source.

It’s no secret that women are resourceful and resilient. Moms the world over have the magical ability to transform inexpensive ingredients into gourmet dinners and to stretch pantry staples to feed even the largest of families. Reflecting on my childhood, I’m in awe of how many times my mom would whip up a delicious and healthy meal, regardless of how empty our fridge was.

But when I discovered Water Pie (also known as Hot Water Pie or Depression Era Pie), I was gobsmacked. We’re talking next-level resourcefulness here. During the Great Depression, many American families experienced crippling poverty and struggled to feed their families. Yet, leave it to women to find a way to create a delicious and inexpensive dessert using six ingredients, the star ingredient being hot water.

Even the preparation of this dessert makes me think that the inventor should have received a Nobel Prize or MacArthur ‘Genius Grant’. The recipe calls for you to pour water directly into a pie crust. I’m no baker, but even I can tell you that sounds completely wrong. It gets even weirder. You then mix sugar and flour and sprinkle it over the water resulting in a cloudy and decidedly unappetizing-looking concoction.

As you make this pie, it’s going to look cloudy and strange. That’s completely normal! Photo credit: Lindsey Hayes; image source.

I wonder if the woman who invented water pie began to second-guess her creation at this point. Nevertheless, she persisted. She drizzled on some vanilla extract, added dollops of butter, and then cooked the entire thing for 60 minutes. The result? A VERY watery, jiggly pie that still looks pretty unappetizing.

Don’t give up just yet! As the pie cools, it will set into a gel-like consistency. By the time the pie has cooled completely, those six humble ingredients will have transformed into a buttery, custardy, heavenly slice of deliciousness. Genius, I tell you.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and one could argue that dessert is pretty darn necessary. But joking aside, this recipe reminded me that water pie isn’t just a sweet treat. It’s a…

Liz Jin

“I wake up in the morning with a desire to both save the world and savor the world. That makes it hard to plan my day.”