Happy Pie Day Everyone!! Midterms are over, Spring Break is right around the corner, and as many would agree, pie is delicious. It can be sweet and evoke memories of simpler times like an apple pie with a buttery flaky crust, just like the ones grandma would make. Or it can be hearty and savory, such as a chicken pot pie packed with flavor. There are fruit pies, meat pies, and many more varieties in between: coconut cream or ice cream pie anyone? Whatever your preferred pastry, one can’t help but wonder, where did this scrumptious dish come from and what were the first sorts of pies?
According to historians, pie-making can be traced back to ancient Greece, thought to have been the originators of the crust, who made it by combining water and flour. Meanwhile, the Romans would fill their pies with many different kinds of meats (even mussels and other types of seafood). Meat pies were often part of Roman dessert courses which they called secundae mensae. Fast forward to the first Thanksgiving here in the United States in 1621. Everyone knows that among the various dishes shared between the Native Americans and the Pilgrims, there was pumpkin pie right?
In reality there is no evidence showing that modern day pie, or even early versions of it, was served at the first Thanksgiving. Pilgrims brought a variety of English-style, meat-based recipes with them to the colonies. The first record of pumpkin pie here in the US was in a cookbook from 1675, originating from British spiced and boiled squash; it wasn’t popularized until the early 1800′s. We don’t know what dishes the Pilgrims served at the first Thanksgiving, but primary documents show they cooked with fowl and venison, and inevitably these ingredients found themselves stuffed in between sheets of dough.
The colonists cooked many pies not only because they were tasty, mind you, but because the crusty top would aid in the preservation of food. This would help to keep the filling fresh, particularly during winter months. Were these early American pies bland? Not exactly. Documents show that Pilgrims would use dried fruits, cinnamon, pepper and nutmeg to season their meats. As the colonies began to expand, so did the reach of pie. The pie acted as an outlet to showcase local ingredients and, with this, the first American sweet pies began to appear.
A cookbook from 1796 listed a mere three types of sweet pies; one from the late 1800′s listed 8 varieties; and by 1947, the Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking listed 65 different kinds of sweet pies. So the saying goes, “There are few things as American as apple pie”, however, like much of America’s pie tradition, the original apple pie recipes hailed from England. These pre-Revolutionary creations were simple, unsweetened apples encased in an edible flour crust. Pies today are a treat eaten around the globe, made with everything from apples to avocados. Pies have come a long way since the heyday of venison and pepper, but whatever the case, there’s surely a pie out there for everyone.
As for me? Kahlua Cream Cheese pie is my favorite. Go out and grab your favorite everybody! Happy Pie Day!