11 Mar 2012

The life of Pie

Hi, my name is Jo and I'm a pie-aholic! For those of you who have been living under a rock for
your whole life, or are from some sort of alien planet, a pie is a baked dish which is usually made of a pastry dough casing that covers or completely contains a filling of various sweet or savoury ingredients. Pies are so simple and versatile, you can put anything (within reason) in one.

Let's face it, pies are awesome. Though the pies we know and love today are a relatively recent addition to the food chain. Their history goes back as long as man has had dough to bake, and filling to put in it. The Oxford English Dcitionaries traces the first use of the word "pie" as it relates to food to 1303, noting the word was well-known and popular by 1362. In fact, historians trace pie's origins back to the ancient Greeks, who are thought to have made the shell by combining flour and water. In medievil England, they were called 'pyes' and generally meat based. They often become somewhat of a dinner spectacle, with the example of Henry VIII famously being served live birds in a pie - and, more recently, Heston Blumenthal!

Another famous pie is the Melton Mowbray, king of pork pies! This pie, named after a town in Leicestershire, England, became popular with fox hunters within the area in the 19th century, and strict rules apply to pies wishing to be called a 'Melton Mowbray'. More information can be found in this charming video: Click me!

The history of pie:

160 BC – A Roman statesman notes the recipe for the most popular pie/cake called  Placenta. It was more like a modern day cheesecake on a pastry base, often used as an offering to the gods. With the development of the Roman Empire and its efficient road transport, pie cooking spread throughout Europe.

12th century - The first reference to "pyes" as food items appeared in England (in a Latin context)

1303 – The first use of the word 'pie' (according to Oxford Dictionaries)
"Pie...a word whose meaning has evolved in the course of many centuries and which varies to some extent according to the country or even to region....The derivation of the word may be from magpie, shortened to pie. The explanation offered in favour or this is that the magpie collects a variety of things, and that it was an essential feature of early pies that they contained a variety of ingredients....Early pies were large; but one can now apply the name to something small, as the small pork pies or mutton pies...Early pies had pastry tops, but modern pies may have a topping of something else...or even be topless. If the basic concept of a pie is taken to mean a mixture of ingredients encased and cooked in pastry, then proto-pies were made in the classical world and pies certainly figured in early Arab cookery."
---The Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] (p. 602-3)

1381 - The first recorded recipe was written by Canterbury Tales author Geoffrey Chaucer. Click me!

1429 - "Partryche and Pecock enhackyll" pie was served, consisting of cooked peacock mounted onto a peacock filled pie. Cooked birds were frequently placed on top of a large pie to identify its contents, leading to its later adaptation in pre-Victorian times as a porcelain ornament to release of steam and identify a good pie.

1545- A cookbook from the mid 16th century that also includes some account of domestic life, cookery and feasts in Tudor days, called: “A Proper newe Booke of Cokerye, declarynge what maner of meates be beste in season, for al times in the yere, and how they ought to be dressed, and serued at the table, bothe for fleshe dayes, and fyshe dayes, has a recipe for a short paest for tarte
To Make Short Paest for Tarte - Take fyne floure and a cursey of fayre water and a dysche of swete butter and a lyttel saffron, and the yolckes of two egges and make it thynne and as tender as ye maye.

18th Century – The Melton Mowbray pork pie is born!

1929 – World's largest pie is created 

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