10 facts all pie lovers should learn for British Pie Week

Did you know? Technically everything used to be a pie

In case you weren’t aware, this week (March 6 – 12 March) is British Pie Week, which effectively means that you’re officially allowed to scoff as much pastry based goodness as possible. GO WILD Y’ALL.

Don’t worry that summer is on the horizon or that you’re going to have to get your kit off on the beach in a couple of months…go crazy; binge away. We promise that Quidco Discover isn’t watching.

As an added bonus, because we’re always looking to give our readers a little extra, we’ve run through ten interesting pie-related facts that’ll help to impress your mates in the pub over the coming days.

1. While pie-style dishes are thought to have first appeared around 9500BC in the New Stone Age (that’s about 5000 years before man invented the wheel!) (in other words: it’s a really long time ago), a more recognisable galette style wrap didn’t make the menu until the era of Pharoah Rameses II, who ruled from 1304 to 1237BC. It is believed the ancient Egyptians favoured wrapping honey in a cover of ground oats, wheat, rye or barley, and we must admit this does sounds pretty tasty. However, given their propensity for removing organs from the body as part of the mummification process you’d have thought steak and kidney might well have made an appearance.

2. More familiar ‘modern-style’ pies are understood to have originated in Ancient Greece with meat and other fillings being spooned on top of a pastry shell. It is thought the dishes arose as a useful means of transporting food on long sea journeys.

3. You’d have thought the Romans might have been too busy fighting Asterix to experiment in the kitchen, but it turns out it was they who began adding pastry crusts to the top of pies. As their Empire spread across the continent and road links improved, the fad spread like wildfire until pies became a steadfast part of Northern European diets. Thankfully, the unappetisingly named Placenta – a form of cheesecake pie – didn’t catch on despite Cato the Younger recording its initial popularity.

4. The first reference to ‘pyes’ as a food item appeared in England (albeit in Latin) as early as the 12th century, although it wasn’t until the 14th century that the term caught on with literary greats Geoffrey Chaucer – in his Canterbury Tales – and William Shakespeare both mentioning them.

5. Although the term ‘pasty’ is most commonly associated with Cornwall, the word began life as a general English term for a pie, of Venison or meat, baked without a dish. Evidence exists that Henry VI was served a partridge and peacock-filled ‘pastie’ aged 8 at a fancy banquet, while Henry VIII’s wife Jane Seymour is understood to have enjoyed the tasty treats from a local butcher.

The humble pasty. Partridge and peacock filling not available in Greggs.

6. It wasn’t until the 17th and 18th century that pasties were seized upon by Cornish working-class miners who found the ‘pies’ suitably versatile to be taken to work. Filled with meat at one end and jam at the other, they formed both a main course and dessert to power the strenuous work below ground.

7. The expression ‘to eat humble pie’ derives from umble pie, which was a pie filled with the chopped or minced innards of an animal. Yum. Umble evolved from ‘numble’ (after the French nomble), meaning deer’s innards. Yum again. It is believed that the cheap offal filling meant it was more commonly eaten by the poor. However, despite it being a seemingly humble meal, there is no etymological link between ‘umble’ and ‘humble’ – the phrase evolving by chance as an idiom over the years.

8. There are few things as American as apple pie, as the saying goes, but like much of America’s pie tradition, the original apple pie recipes came from England. The Pilgrims brought their pie-making skills along with the apple seeds to America. As the popularity of apple pie spread throughout the nation, the phrase grew to symbolize American prosperity.

Apple pie: as American as America gets.

9. The origin of festive mince pies can be traced back to the 13th century when European crusaders returned home from the Middle East with recipes containing meats, fruits and spices. Such were their religious ties (eaten as they were in the build-up to Christmas) that by the mid-17th century mince pies were banned during Oliver Cromwell’s reign of terror along with other Christian traditions. Precursors to the modern mince pie were much larger and, until the Victorian age, often contained the likes of beef, veal or mutton.

1o. Thanks to European ‘protected designation of origins laws’ only pies made within a certain distance of the village of Melton are allowed to carry the Melton Mowbray label on their pork pies. A very popular picnic snack, the sale of pork pies makes up £145 million of a £1 billion pie industry which exists in the UK. That is a lot of pies.

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Andrew Allen / Editor

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