When you think of classic American food, pie is probably at the top of the list. We took a fun look into the history of the American pie and its travel and transformation over time.
Historians recorded that the first resemblance of pie can be dated back to the ancient Egyptians during the Neolithic period around 9500 BC. by way of galettes, which are essentially rustic free-form pies. They made these pie-like treats using oat, wheat, rye, and barley, then filled them with honey and baked the dish over hot coals. This baking tradition got passed on to the Greeks, who are believed to have invented pie pastry. The pies during this period were made by a flour-water paste encasing meat. The Romans, of course, then updated these recipes to make a pie similar to cheesecake, which was often used as an offering to their gods.
The Oxford English Dictionary traces the first use of the word “pie” as it relates to food to 1303. Research shows that the word became well known and popular by 1362. As shown, the first pies were not made in America. Best put by The Oxford Companion to Food, “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.” Basically, pie has been around for thousands of years, and ain’t goin’ anywhere!
The first medieval pies in a similar form that we know today, called “coffins” (meaning basket or box), were savory meatpies with tall straight-sided crusts sealed on all sides. The following is a recipe from a medieval cookbook for making a small pie, called a Tarte: Take fyne floure and a cursey of fayre water and a dysche of swete butter and a lyttle saffron, and the yolckes of two egges and make it thynne and as tender as ye maye (History of Pie). Sounds just like Betty Crocker!
More current day American pie baking began with the colonists. As a favorite dish of the English, the settlers began baking pies for practical reasons, especially in the harsh and primitive conditions that they endured. Pie crust had less ingredients than bread, and did not need a brick oven to bake. Mostly, pies had a lot of filling ingredients that could stretch meals among more people (Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America).
What’s with the apple pie? The original recipe for apple pie was also brought to America by the settlers, but showed some variation from the English apple pie – the settlers were free from the rules of English pie! Apple pie became an American symbol when America became the world’s largest apple producing nation. Apple recipes were on the rise, and people couldn’t get enough of that pie!
The Pie King?: James Buchanan Brady (1856-1917), known as Diamond Jim Brady, was a legendary ladies man and “pie man” as well. One dinner, Brady was wheeled a huge pie, of which an unclothed dancer spoon fed to him. Other dancers quickly emerged and tended to the other guests’ pie needs. Brady was often known to finish lunch with an array of pies (not slices, but whole pies). He would begin his meal six inches from the table, quitting only when his stomach rubbed uncomfortably against the edge.
We think Diamond Jim Brady would most likely be the winner of our Pie Day (see below post) pie eating contest this Saturday! Come find out who becomes the new PIE KING or QUEEN!
For more pie history information and fun facts vistit: