Milk Bar, formerly under the Momofuku umbrella, is a desserts shop based in New York City that became “a thing” about a decade ago. Under chef Christina Tosi—formerly a judge on FOX’s Masterchef—Milk Bar was really good at utilizing sweets and baked goods to tap into childhood nostalgia. It was likely the first bakery to make a name selling milk steeped in corn flakes, and it’s sold a lot of Compost Cookies, a recipe calling for chocolate and butterscotch chips, ground coffee, potato chips, oats, and pretzels. There are now 16 locations across the country.
And then there’s its Crack Pie, buttery and decadent with a gooey hodgepodge filling, that’s easily among Milk Bar’s bestsellers. But in the last few years, the word “crack,” used to denote something of an addictive nature, has increasingly been seen as pejorative. The crack epidemic that proliferated in America’s inner cities throughout the 1980s disproportionately affected black communities, and so the term “crack” is also tinged with racial overtones.
In a February profile of Tosi in The New York Times, reporter Kim Severson wrote:
Some people still find the term Crack Pie more offensive than cute, or at least inappropriate. To sell a packaged version at Target, she had to rename it Milk Bar Pie Mix.
Today, Tosi announced via her Milk Bar blog that its Crack Pie will now be sold as Milk Bar Pie. Tosi wrote: “Our mission, after all, is to spread joy and inspire celebration. The name Crack Pie falls short of this mission.”
The move to excise the word “crack,” especially in food writing, has gained traction. In one of her first columns as San Francisco Chronicle’s new restaurant critic, Soleil Ho called out the term, writing: “It’s supposed to be funny and edgy to compare a gourmet cupcake to crack because of how far the chi-chi bakery I’m standing in is from the kind of community that has historically been devastated by the crack epidemic. The ignorance is the joke.” She said of Milk Bar’s usage: “Honestly, the company should have done the right thing and changed it by now.”
It has now.