The recipe will remain the same. But the name of Milk Bar’s signature dessert is getting a change that some critics say is long overdue. Crack Pie — the trademarked name for the chain’s buttery, sugary pie — will now become Milk Bar Pie.
The name was a reference to crack cocaine — the gag being that the pie was just as addictive as the drug. But an increasing chorus of critics have pointed out that the name makes light of a serious drug epidemic, and one that had an outsize impact on the African American community. The callousness with which people throw around the word “crack” isn’t the same with other drugs. We don’t call any desserts “opioid pie,” even though those drugs, which claim predominantly white lives, are highly addictive, too.
Last month, the Boston Globe’s Devra First called out chef Christina Tosi’s use of the word in an essay titled “There’s nothing cute about crack pie.” “It is a moment to pay attention to the way we talk about food, to stop speaking lightly about addiction and equating it with deliciousness,” she wrote. San Francisco Chronicle food critic Soleil Ho put the word on her list of “Words you’ll never see me use in restaurant reviews,” writing, “No matter how delicious something might be, its effect on me is nothing close to what crack does to people and their families.” Ho also pledged not to use the term “addictive” in her writing.
In a statement on Milk Bar’s website, Tosi didn’t reference the reason for the term’s criticism, which irritated some critics. “Our mission, after all, is to spread joy and inspire celebration. The name Crack Pie falls short of this mission,” Tosi wrote in a note to her team. She wrote that the old name was “getting in the way of letting the gooey, buttery slice bring happiness — my only goal in creating the thing in the first place.”
Other restaurants that use the term “crack” have begun to abandon it, as well. The gastropub chain HopCat renamed its “crack fries” in December. “While the name Crack Fries was intended to be tongue-in-cheek, drug addiction is not a joke,” Mark Gray, CEO of BarFly Ventures, HopCat’s parent company, said in a YouTube video and blog post. “The drug crack has devastated many of the communities that we serve.”
The old name still has a few defenders on Twitter, but many people — including many in the food media — are applauding the change. Tosi’s statement said the new name will roll out in Milk Bar’s 16 bakeries in the United States and Canada in the coming weeks. A search for crack pie already redirects to Milk Bar Pie when you click on the official Milk Bar site.
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