"Disgusting," somebody said.
"I thought it was a pizza," somebody else said.
"Mushy," said Brenda Stielper, a 17-year-old Bob, Big Boy waitress who was smoothing the top of a 2.5 ton strawberry pie in time to Molly Hatchet's "Flirting With Disaster." "It feels like a dead jellyfish."
Actually, it was not the world's largest strawberry pie at Farragut Square yesterday. But 6,000 people had it for lunch. And 100,000 California strawberries were in it. And 12,000 ounces of topping from those squirt cans that are great for whipped-crean fights (one did indeed develop; details later) were pssfffffttted all over it.
"No whipped cream, please," said Dorothy Cobb, an IRS secretary in orange polka dots who was dieting. She also said she wasn't going to eat the crust, but probably did.
The reason for the swamp of a pie in Farragut Square yesterday was as American as a promotion gimmick. This particular one happened to be by the Marriott Corp., which owns Bob's Big Boy, which makes strawberry pies like the one above. Usually they're smaller.
But Americans still seem fascinated by the Texas Syndrome -- the biggest as best, or at least, the biggest as a good way to spend a hot lunch hour. So all day Thursday out in some behemoth kitchen in Beaver Heights, Md., 15 strawberry pluckers, which is really what they call them, made the 16-by-26-foot pie. On Friday, any passing pedestrian (bag ladies and lawyers included) got a free piece of it. To soothe your conscience you could donate to the Police Boys' and Girls' clubs.
Now if the truth be known, the pie-makers cheated a little. They didn't bake the thing all in one crust.
"You're right," said Claude Davis, a Big Boy marketing director who said he owed his impressive belly not to pie but to his wife's cooking, "we didn't. But see, strawberry pie isn't a baked pie anyway."
What they did was assemble 150 already-prepared rectangular pans of pie into one big rectangular pan of pie on a table in a hot tent. It felt like a sauna, sticky as strawberry soda. Then they poured red glop, or officially, glaze, in between the cracks.
"Girls, be careful," said Davis of 35 Big Boy waitresses who were trotting out the pie pans from a Marriott truck on the table. "We only have five extras," Davis was calling directions into a bullhorn, sort of like a queen ant directing her workers.
"Aren't they beeeeeauutiful?" he said. This was aimed at the pie pans. "Nice, big strawberries."
But not champions, even though all the press-release stuff said this monster was going to be the "World's Largest Strawberry Pie!" A representative from the Guiness Book of World Records" was even suppose to be on hand to witness.
"To be honest," said Davis, "I have doubts we're going to make it. Guiness is getting touchy.They've got a mince pie, they've got a cherry pie and I think they've even got the world's largest apple pie. So they have reservations about getting into every conceivable pie.First thing you know, there'll be blueberry, grape, rhubarb-strawberry, huckleberry."
The Guinness people confirmed this. "We can't just add every kind of pie," said Michele Voso, the editor's assistant who said the largest pie record is held by a 10-ton apple baked in New York in 1977. She decreed, however, that Marriott's strawberry belongs in the category of "Largest Cherry Pie," apparently on the premise that even if you can't compare apples and oranges, strawberries and cheeries are perfectly fine.
But as far as cherry goes, Marriott's pie still loses -- first, because it doesn't come close to the 7-tonner baked in Charlevoix, Mich., in 1976, and second, because it wasn't concocted in one container.
Didn't seem to bother people much yesterday, though. Certainy not the Strawberry Queen, who was Reiko Wood, selected by Big Boy customers across the land as best and most delightful waitress.
"When we get mad," she said, revealing waitress secrets, "we go inside the refrigerated walk-in and scream: 'I can't take it any more!' Then we go out and it's okay."
Around the Strawberry Queen was a jolly lunch-time crowd, swarming and sweating in the June humidity. Ladies' heels sank into the grass and hairdos drooped or frizzed. A salad with iced tea, in an air-conditioned restaurant, would have made a lot more sense.
But who can resist a hubbub? Or a pie fight?
Not a bunch of energy consultants, who threw a pie at a fellow consultant, 25-year-old Doug Fried. He had to eat it off his forehead.
And on the subject of fights, there was the whipped-cream one. This occurred when the pie ran out but not the cans of topping. Two Big Boy waitresses, adrenaline still pumping from helping to dish out 6,000 pieces of pie in 45 minutes, started it.
The culprits were Chrissy Lambros and Lisa Sherins, 17-year-olds from Rockville who plucked strawberries at the kitchen on Thursday and were so absolutely bored by it they just talked about anything. But yesterday, they were sprung, and at 12:31 p.m., Chrissy was decorating Lisa's head with whipped cream.
"Eeeeeeeeeh," said Lisa.