Throwing food at people that we don’t like is as old as people and food. It is an instinctive reaction in small children to protest at being fed Brussels sprouts by flinging them at the cook. Throwing food at public figures has a long history that is recorded as far back as the ancient world and is perhaps the most genuine form of protest by the proletariat. It would seem that in the past the choice of vegetable ammunition was largely determined by the intensity of dislike that was felt towards the target. Throwing eggs or very ripe tomatoes seems to have been the order of the day for the average protest against the latest follies of some politician but in extreme cases more substantial projectiles were not uncommon. It is very likely that Emperor Vespasian had a good gauge on the mood of the crowd whilst they pelted him with turnips in 63 AD.
Modern mores have dictated a less potent ammunition but the intention of flinging food at people that we don’t like remains the same- a small but defiant voice from amongst the people that says “Enough!” or “You scoundrel! This is what we think of you- Rotten eggs!” The use of foam/cream pies takes food throwing to a new level, lifting it to the level of genuine political protest and making sure that the issue will get maximum exposure on the evening news. But in recent years pieing has been hijacked by self-interested, self-seeking hopefuls seeking free exposure in the media, taking the entire practice down to the level of pitiable ridiculousness.
Uber pie thrower Aron Kay said recently of the art of pie throwing
“It has to be something that deals with the philosophy behind it,” Kay said Tuesday in a phone call from a bus somewhere in New York. “Like if someone was a Nazi, it could be a German chocolate cake.” With Abraham Beame, the former mayor of New York, Kay went for apple crumb pie “because he was a big crumb in the Big Apple.” (Washington Post July 20 2011). Without that sort of motivation pieing becomes simple assault. So when I saw Jonnie Marbles’ failed attempt at landing a shaving cream pie in old Rupert’s boat race I thought “What’s it for? What is he protesting?” When I found out he’d done it to promote himself I just hoped that he got what he deserved. If it had been about something, if it had said “This is what we think Rupert, we think that you are a lying cheating scumbag that deserves the justice that your scurrilous ways have earned you- and here’s a pie in the face to go on with!” then I would have given the cause my full support. But now I just think that one scumbag tried to put a pie into the face of another scumbag and failed.