Even as I bake and hand off 30 Thanksgiving pies to my beloved customers, I have begun to worry about what will happen to one particular pie. It’s the pie I plan to carry onto a plane bound for California on Thursday.
The worry began to solidify as friends asked me whether the TSA would let my pie through the airport checkpoint. Now I know those guys can be pretty, um, inquisitive, but it just hadn’t occurred to me that they might seize a pie from a small woman on one of the most sentimental holidays of the year.
Luckily, I found myself in a position to do a one-on-one interview with an expert on this topic. On a recent trip to Colorado, I ended up on an airport tram with a TSA agent. Since I ask people questions for a living, I didn’t feel shy about putting a few to him.
So, I said, are you guys going to make my life difficult if I try to take a pie onto a plane at Thanksgiving?
“Well,” he said, with no trace of a smile, “What kind of pie?”
“It matters what kind?” I asked.
“Well, yeah, it does,” TSA said. He explained that soft fillings, like those in cream pies, would fall into the dreaded liquid-or-gel category, whereas firmer fillings, like pecan, might clear the hurdle.
What about apple pies, I said, with a playful poke to his arm, would you guys really look me in the face and forbid me from taking my own homemade apple pie to my family’s Thanksgiving table? Would you bar me from taking a pumpkin pie?
“Well,” he said, with a half-grimace, half-smile, “we might have to. This is an area of discretion for the agent. Someone could hide C-4 in a pie, especially a pie with a filling like pumpkin. He might have to inspect it.”
Inspect it? You mean like poke around in there with a metal probe? Like slice into it?
Yup, that’s what he meant. He told me all this rather sheepishly, as if he felt kinda bad having to be a hard-ass about Thanksgiving pie. But it’s his job, and I guess all security threats have to be detected and assessed, even if they come in 9-inch pie crusts.
I began to fear even more for the travel plans of my pumpkin pie when I read scattered references on the Internet to pumpkin pie filling being viewed as a potential “weapon.”
Which is kind of funny, since I traveled to Colorado recently with a 19-inch wooden rolling pin–which, if you ask me, posed a far greater potential threat to a pilot than a soft pumpkin pie filling–and no one at the TSA even blinked.
The TSA’s own list of foods that are potential threats was somewhat more reassuring, since not a single pie filling was included. It did say, however, that traveling pies could be subject to “additional screening.”
Pie problems at the checkpoints aren’t unheard of. An Oregon writer almost had her apple pie nabbed by the feds a few years ago, and lived to write an amusing piece about it.
So I guess I’ll take my pie to Dulles airport and hope for the best: merciful–and hopefully not too hungry–TSA agents.