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February 22, 2010

Pi Day cuisine

March 14 is Pi Day, which celebrates that nice, irrational number 3.141593-yada-yada-yada representing the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. (Thanks, math-teacher husband.) It's also an excuse for a party.

Donna Beth Joy Shapiro, of the late Old Waverly History Exchange & Tea Room, has thrown a Pi Day party for the past 12 or 13 years. The menu changes, but the food is always round. Say, salad with cherry tomatoes and slices of carrot, cucumber and radish -- no lettuce. If she serves pizzas, they're sized for one so the circles don't have to be "desecrated" into wedges. (Or sectors, suggests math-hubby; OK, dear, you've done your part. Go away now and let me work.)

Shapiro's no-desecration stance tends to exclude pie, oddly enough. Unless they're mini-pies. Shapiro is thinking of making individual cheesecakes for dessert this year. And maybe homemade bagels.

The conversation is circular, too.

"We get into the more existential -- life is a circle," she said. "There are all sorts of wonderful quotes that deal with the circle of life." 

The idea for the party came from her husband, Fred Shoken, an architectural historian.

"He is a pi freak," she said. "He can recite pi to I don't know how many decimals."

This year, for the first time, their party will take place on the night before Pi Day. That's because Shapiro, who intends to start making cheese professionally, has to travel to Vermont on the 14th for a workshop on washed-rind cheeses.

"All Jewish holidays start the night before," she noted. "That's why we feel it's OK."

In other words, the circle will remain unbroken.

Posted by Laura Vozzella at 5:33 AM | | Comments (11)


Wow, who would have guessed that Donna Beth Joy Shapiro was Jewish.

The bagel has a particular beauty as a torus, a circle within a circle created mathematically by a circle rotated about an axis in its plane that does not intersect the circle. Don't forget the movie Pi. Or makizushi. There is so much round food,so little time.

DBJS, this is just the time of year that needs more holidays and reasons to celebrate! Great idea!

Brings to mind those wonderful round little custards from ICA.

I'd like to hear more about the cheese thing once you get it going too.

Strictly speaking, isn't a torus hollow?

x(u,v) = (R+r cos v)cos u
y(u,v) = (R+r cos v)sin u
z(u,v) = r sin v

u,v are in the interval [0, 2n),
R is the distance from the center of the tube to the center of the torus,
r is the center of the tube.

Oh, Laura Lee! Who knew?

Seriously?? How can you do that at 6:22 am? I can barely figure out what day it is...

R is the distance from the center of the tube to the center of the torus

That's what she said!

Oh, the poor Europeans doomed to never celebrate pi day due to their rational writing of dates.

Gonna have to teach you the Pi Day song so that you never repeat your error in the first line of your post - it should read 3.141592(65358979323846264338327950288419717 . . . but who's counting?) Well, actually, "The largest number of decimal digits of pi ever computed is 1,241,100,000,000, that is, 1.2411 trillion. This staggering achievement was made in 2002 by computer scientist Yasumasa Kanada and his coworkers at the University of Tokyo Information Technology Center. Kanada's team programmed a Hitachi SR8000 supercomputer with a special formula for pi and ran the computer for over 600 hours."

Our program this year centers on Cheese Pi(es) of the World. Last year, it was Stonehenge: The World's Most Mysterious Circle, and as I look back on the printed program, I see we included images of Sausagehenge and Twinkiehenge.

Lots of stuff on the web re: alternative dates for Pi Day, which is of course, but an approximation.

Remember, you can't spell happiness without pi. And you can't calculate your hat size, either.

See you 'round. Pi-pi!

So I rounded. Isn't that what pi's all about, rounding? LV


Europeans use July 22nd as Pi Approximation day.

Since Europeans use dd/mm instead on mm/dd, and there is no 14th month, the fraction 22/7 is a close approximation of pi: 3.14285...

So world travelers can celebrate Pi Day on March 14th and take a summer trip across the pond and celebrate it again on July 22nd!

What do baguettes and hot dogs have to do with pi?

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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