Saturday, January 23, 2010


Raise your forks, use your fingers, stick your whole face in -
Folks, we got pie!

Today is officially National Pie Day, created by the American Pie Council as part of our American heritage. And nothing says American quite like good ole fashioned pie. Fruit pies, cream pies, custards, meringues, chocolate, and nut pies filled, top-crusted, two-crusted, served with fresh whipped cream, or à la mode - the assortment is varied and endless. This is it, folks, a legitimate excuse to gorge yourself with pie. All you can eat pie!

Set aside today to bake all your favorite pies, or better yet take the opportunity to try a new recipe. Maybe you've been curious about some of the more unusual pies like Seagull Egg Pie, Avocado Pie, or Sawdust Pie. Or old vintage favorites like Vinegar Pie, Funeral Pie, or Shoofly Pie. And standards like apple, pumpkin, or pecan pie. A great way to celebrate the day is to bake and give away pies to friends, neighbors, family, and heck even strangers. Start a new tradition of pie giving, or organize a pie social, an age-old tradition celebrating community by gathering friends and family to share a piece of pie, or to raise funds for worthy causes. Pie socials have been popping up all over the country to raise money for schools, charities, and other organizations. But first and foremost, National Pie Day is a day to eat pies!

U.S.S. North Dakota Bakery crew, Navy Yard, NY 1911

Just to get you started in the interest of pies, here's a how it all got started. The history of pie is rich in flavor, having evolved and adapted itself to changing locales, conditions, and ingredients. Pie eating spans thousands of years, first with the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, then to Europe, and eventually to the Americas. The first pies of medieval Europe were called "coffins" or "coffyns", savory meat pies completely enclosed in pastry. Open-crust pastry were known as "traps". These pies held assorted meats and sauce, comparable to our modern casseroles with the pastry crust taking the role of the actual pan. At that time baking containers were limited, and the pastry shell mainly served as a baking dish, storage container, or serving vessel. These thick crusts were made to withstand hours of baking, often making them tough and inedible.

A coffin graces a rich man's table. From Grandes Heures d'Anne de Bretagne, 15th c.

In medieval England, "pie" or "pyes" like its French counterpart "pate" meant bits and pieces of meat baked in pastry, named after the magpie, a bird known for collecting odds and ends. Meat and vegetable pies like shepherd's pie or cottage pie came to North America with the colonists in the 17th century. Eventually their recipes were adapted to the ingredients and techniques available to them in the New World, and the crusts became more tender and flaky, the fillings sweet with fruit and berries. Round and shallow pie pans made their debut to conserve rations. In the 1700's pioneer women often served pies with every meal, cementing the pastry as a unique form of American culture. With food at the heart of gatherings and celebrations, pie quickly moved to the forefront of contests at county fairs, picnics, and other social events. And as settlers moved westward, American regional pies developed introducing new tastes to discerning palettes. Pie recipes both sweet and savory are steeped in cultural and family traditions, and are passed down from one generation to the next.

Konzil von Konstanz (ÖNB 3044, fol. 48v), c. 1465-1475

Now please...
Go eat some pie!

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