Nothing is as American as apple pie, or so they say. And, as some have it, some things are “easy as pie”.
Pie isn’t a particularly easy endeavor, however, as anyone who has made it should know. So how did the phrase “easy as pie” come to be?
Plenty of English phrases have the structure “as blank as blank”, so the phrase itself is not that unusual.
The phrase likely comes from 19th century America. One simple explanation suggests that the idiom applies not to the making of pie, but the eating of it, which is in fact a pretty simple task.
Mark Twain liked to compare many things to pie. In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, published 1884, he wrote “You’re always as polite as pie to them.” This was not the only comparison he made to pie, either. For instance, he also wrote that someone “was just old pie to him, so to speak.”
The first known printed use of “easy” pie came in 1887, from a newspaper called Newport Mercury that said, “You see veuever I goes I takes away mit me a silverspoon or a knife or somethings, an’ I gets two or three dollars for them. It’s easy as pie. Vy don’t you try it?”
So while the direct reason for the phrase is not known, it seems simple enough as a naturally forming simile.
Another source suggests that today’s usage comes from an Indigenous Australian expression “pie at” or “pie on” which has a positive connotation. However, the claims suggest that the phrase originated in the 1920s, definitely after the first printed appearance.
“Easy as pie” came effortlessly into the English language, almost as effortlessly as pie.