by erin thursby email@example.com
Americans didn’t invent the pie; we’re far too young for that. Pies are nearly as old as bread. In between inventing beer and drinking it, experts think the ancient Egyptians fashioned the first pie.
We do know that the Romans liked the idea of pie (and pi as well) and if there’s one thing the Romans excelled at, it was spreading ideas they liked.
Early pies weren’t the fruit-filled confection we know and love today, but were more often the main course and filled with meat or stew.
Pizza, if you didn’t already realize, is actually a form of pie, even if it doesn’t have a top crust. Not all early “pies” were made with pastry or bread. Some were made in hollowed pumpkins or squash and then sliced like a conventional pie.
Before TV, folkes in ye olde Englande would gather round the pie at the banquet table and see what popped out. These were called animated pies. Some of them featured live birds, as in the nursery rhyme “Sing a song of sixpence…four and twenty black birds baked in a pie…when the pie was opened the birds began to sing/wasn’t that a dainty dish to set before the king?” When they were out of birds, they stuck live frogs, turtles, rabbits and the occasional dwarf in the pie. When set free from their pastry prison the dwarves would entertain the crowd by doing tumbling tricks or story telling.
While we no longer fill our pies with the entertainment for the evening, it’s hard to count the number of movie and TV scenes in which pie was a player. Here’s a recent accounting of pies on the screen, big and small.
Pie takes center stage in the TV show Pushing Daisies, wherein a pie maker, with a diner that sells nothing but pies, also has the unique power of reviving the dead (temporarily) with a touch.
If you’ve seen the American Pie movie, you won’t soon forget the scene featuring apple pie. Maybe you haven’t seen the previews, so I won’t ruin it for you. However, if you’re easily grossed out, let me just say that this might ruin apple pie for you.
Speaking of grossed out, an older pie type gets featured in Sweeny Todd-the meat pie.
The next time you have pie for breakfast, tell whoever chastises you for doing it that you’re following an ancient tradition. Fruit pies, meat pies, cheese and egg pies were all common breakfast meals during pie’s infancy. The number of modern Americans who have eaten pie for breakfast: 113 million.
We say that something is “as American as apple pie,” but of course the apple pie didn’t originate here. Early recipes can be traced back to England, around the 1300s. Most of these didn’t have sugar, or had very little, since sugar was costly.
The earliest apple pie recipes featured pastry that wasn’t meant to be eaten. That is, the pastry was only meant to be a disposable container for the fruit filling. These were often sold by streetside vendors in London. By the 1500s, sugar was more readily obtained, so you could eat the pastry surrounding it as well.
Early colonists in America had not cultivated apples available to them at first, so they had to be imported. Once apple trees were growing, they were mostly used in cider, though there were apple pie recipes in the U.S. by the 1700s.
What we know as apple pie today is actually closer to the Dutch version of the recipe, laced with cinnamon, sugar and with the traditional lattice work top crust.
Apple pie became quintessentially American during WWII, but the origins of the phrase “as American as apple pie” still remain murky. Wikipedia says that “for mom and apple pie” was supposedly the standard answer from American soldiers in WWII whenever journalists asked them why they were going to fight.
The American Pie Council® (APC) is the only organization committed to preserving America’s pie heritage and promoting America’s love affair with pies (www.piecouncil.org). Designed to raise awareness, enjoyment and consumption of pies, the APC offers both personal and commercial memberships.
- Key Lime pie was just adopted as the official pie of Florida in 2006.
- The state of Vermont adopted apple pie as the official state pie in 1999.
Announcing the 2008 APC Great American Pie Festival, April 19 & 20, 2008 Lakeside Park, Celebration, FL. Saturday, April 19, 2008 11AM-7PM Sunday, April 20, 2008 12pm-5pm
Article Published in the 2-14-08 Issue of EU Jacksonville