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Culinary Byte: February is Great American Pie Month

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ie350-098February is The Great American Pie Month! Did you know that February is The Great American Pie Month?  So let’s learn more about this classic American dessert.

I bet you didn’t know this but pies have been around for thousands of years.  In fact, historians have recorded that the roots of pie can loosely be traced back to the ancient Egyptians, where bakers to the pharaohs would fill bread dough with nuts, honey, and fruits. Drawings of them can be found etched on the tomb walls of Ramses II, located in the Valley of the Kings. While the Egyptians may take some credit for the beginnings of pie, the Greeks are believed to have originated the pie pastry.   The Greek pies were made by a flour-water paste wrapped around meat, which served to cook the meat and seal in the juices. When Rome conquered Greece, they took these pie recipes home.  According to records, they used every type of meats for the filling and even seafood wasn’t ignored.  At one point, pies were even offerings to Roman deities.  Eventually, pie recipes spread throughout Europe via the Roman Road and each country adapted the recipes to their customs and available ingredients.

Did you know that pie, as we know them today, was originally a simple cooking and serving container created with dough for use in containing and cooking the fillings as well as their juices. At the time, a pie with a crust was known as a coffin while pies with no crust were referred to as traps. Large, short-sided pies are tarts and very small pies are tartlets.

Pies at that time had a very hard crust and were not really meant to be eaten, since its use was primarily that of a cooking vessel. Due to the hard crust, between the 13th and 16th centuries, many pies held live birds, frogs and other small creatures, even dwarfs and sometimes a small orchestra. These were contained inside the pie to emerge to enliven royal feasts with entertainment.

Since pastry was a staple ingredient in medieval menus, pastry making was taken for granted by the majority of early cookbooks, and recipes are not usually included. It wasn’t until the 16th century that cookbooks with pastry ingredients began appearing. Historians believed that this was because cookbooks started appearing for the general household and not just for professional cooks.

Pies made their way to England and soon showed up in America with the first colonial settlers.  They brought with them cottage and shepherds pies.  Pilgrims learned about healthy fruits and berries from the Native Americans and soon those ingredients started being incorporated in pie recipes. Women at that time conserved their rations by making round pies and shallow pies. During the 1700s, pie first saw one of its best celebrating moments while gaining popularity in many homes, picnics and fairs. Many people have enjoyed pie eating contests or pie throwing games. Pies and their recipes have traveled a very long way from where they began to this present day.

Throughout the years, pie has been adapted to fit into every culture it has touched and it is made with a a variety of different ingredients, including meats, poultry, seafood, fruits, nutes, vegetables, cheese, custards and so much more.   From Ancient Greeks to present day, pie has come a long way, baby, so be sure to celebrate February with a slice of pie or two.  Savory or sweet, it’s a great way to celebrate such an ancient foodie tradition.

Consumate Food Blogger.