American way, apple pie is a johnny-come-lately, a usurper, a pale pretender to its pastry throne. The phrase as American as apple pieis of 20th-century origin and didn't attain wide currency until the 1940s. Perhaps not coincidentally, the 40s are also when mince pie went into eclipse as our defining national dish.
But to its 19th- and early-20th-century admirers, mince pie was "unquestionably the monarch of pies," "the great American viand," "an American institution" and "as American as the Red Indians." It was the food expatriates longed for while sojourning abroad. Acquiring an appreciation for it was proof that an immigrant was becoming assimilated. It was the indispensable comfort dish dispatched to American expeditionary forces in World War I to reinforce their morale with the taste of home. "Mince pie is mince pie," as an editorialist for the Washington Post put it in 1907. "There is no other pie to take its place. Custard pie is good and so is apple pie, but neither has the uplifting power and the soothing, gratifying flavor possessed by mince pie when served hot, with a crisp brown crust."