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Chicken Pot Humble Pie

Submitted by Pierce Nahigyan on November 17, 2010 – 3:08 pmComments

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Being half a history major I enjoy learning how language grouped together from the assorted odds and ends of our babbling ancestors. Let me lay one on you (for the sake of my point, seen below): humble pie. Why do we say he eats, or has to eat, or is made to eat, humble pie? Surely pie is delicious, meant to go together with coffee, pumpkins, chicken and…pots? and an assorted filigree of family, festivals, and whipped cream.

The inside of a deer – specifically its guts – is called its umbles. Back in the day of chivalry and outdoor plumbing, when a deer was prepared for the lords of the manor its carcass was served to the upper class folk while the entrails were for the huntsmen and servants of the land. They ate umble pie, which became humble pie for what are obvious reasons…

Not a great pie. Today, having a slice of humble pie is a metaphor (giblets exempt). And like any metaphor, you can take it or leave it. But if you take it, well, now that we know what it means, you better mean it.

I’ve been thinking about eating that pie lately. At the risk of impropriety I’ll say that recently, during a very lengthy interview for an overseas position, I was fingered as boisterous and energetic but full of myself. I joked with the interviewer for a minute more before I realized, mortified, that throughout the day what I had believed was a deadpan rapport between us was in fact a deadly seriousness. Quickly I relived every hour of that belabored day: the name tag I had accidentally abused and claimed to not need (being such a memorable fellow), my boast to the council that I could chop three bricks in half (with my mind), my ranging about the other applicants with jokes and stories of improbable prowess…suddenly all these things were boorish trespasses, not comical light-heartedness.

To my great relief and happiness, I was subsequently asked to join another company, one which pegged me as energetic and boisterous and with the right kind of attitude. But there is a profound choice ahead of me that either arrogance or simplicity has kept from view. While I am light-hearted, easy-going, and a cat who seldom eats canaries, how often do I rub folks the wrong way?

Prior to last week I would have told you it didn’t matter. I am who I am; I’m very proud of that. But a taste of umble pie has a lasting effect. It tends to twist the eyes, and makes beautiful fools see themselves, not beautiful, only foolish. There is a long life laid out before those twisted eyes, one that may not be as kind as I believed. Maybe it was a mistake to assume so many good people were in on the joke when the punchline didn’t matter. It could be, too, that I’m the punchline, and the joke is that I thought everybody was having a good time.

This pie tastes terrible.

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  • Debi

    I think we have all eaten 'umble pie' but the trick is digest it quickly than let it 'go'....I bet some of those huntsmen and servants did not deserve the umble pie they were served

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