Pie is a traditional food that has been around for centuries. Even millenia- some historians think that it goes back to the Greeks and Romans. Pie was certainly made in medieval Europe and colonial America and appears in many forms in other cultures around the world. The historical pie that I speak of is the classic two crust pie.
The crust of pie served an important purpose in the days before baking dishes and storage containers. The crust of old was very thick, one or two inches often, and was intended to completely encase and contain the contents for baking and for storage. It wasn't called a crust in those days but the coffyn. The pie could be baked without a pan and stored on a shelf for a future meal. The filling of the pie could be anything but was usually meat and even fish (or eel!). Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie? That was not as odd sounding when composed as it is today. Whole birds, feet and all, were often baked into a fancy crust for royalty. Pigeon pie was a popular dish of the elite because pigeons were scarce and could only be eaten by the privileged. It wasn't until later that fruit and sweet fillings began to be used in pies.
Pie was an early travel food in the form of hand pies and pasties. Immigrants from Cornwall brought their traditional food to northern Michigan with them. Cornish pasties, a hand pie filled with meat and vegetables was their daily lunch meal when they worked in the copper mines in the Upper Pennisula. Today there are restaurants and food stands that sell these Cornish pasties for a taste of the old days.
Sadly, today, the two crust traditional pie is not as ubiquitous in American kitchens. I believe this is because the technique of making a crust and forming a closed pie is not taught from generation to generation and is being forgotten. It is much easier to crush cookies and press them into a pie dish. Filling it with pudding and whipped cream doesn't need a teacher. That kind of pie is delicious and has its place in our food catalogue but it is a poor replacement for the traditional two crust pie. The prevalence of bland and bad tasting factory pie is erasing the memories of what pie should taste like.
So in honor of our American food heritage and National Pie Day, I am going to make pie today. How about you? If you need tips or tricks to help you with the challenge of making crust, check my posts under Pie in the sidebar. You will find recipes and links to help with the task. Your effort will be rewarded with not only a delicious, hand made dish, but in the satisfaction of participating in one of our longest held comfort food traditions.
And if you do make pie today, I'd love to hear about it!