Pieology: A Brief History of Pies

When you hear the word “pie,” do you think of Fourth of July cherry pie, or pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving? Or perhaps America’s favorite — apple pie? The sweet pies that millions of people enjoy today have come a long way from the very first known pies.

The idea for pie can be traced to the ancient Egyptians. The kings’ bakers used nuts, honey, and fruits in bread dough. Drawings of this can be found on the tomb walls of King Ramses II, who lived more than three thousand years ago.

Later, the Greeks and Romans improved the art of pie-making by creating pie pastry. Greek pies were made with a flour-water paste wrapped around meat. This served to cook the meat and seal in the juices.

The Romans learned about pies from the Greeks. Their first known pie recipe was for a goat cheese and honey pie. Other Roman pies had fish, oysters, and meats inside. As the Romans spread through Europe, more and more people learned about pies. Different recipes appeared in many different lands.

In England, in the time of knights and castles, pies known as mince (or mincemeat) pies were filled with meats. Beef, lamb, wild duck, and magpie pigeon were used, along with fruits and spices.

The nursery rhyme “Sing a Song of Sixpence” comes from old England too, in the 1700s. The rhyme mentions “four and twenty blackbirds” baked into a pie for a king’s feast. When the pie was opened, the king was surprised to hear the birds singing.

Amazingly, small animals were actually put into pies at royal feasts back then. Rabbits, frogs, turtles, and others were used. Even small people (dwarfs) were enclosed in pies! When they climbed out, the dwarfs would entertain guests with tricks, much like a jester….

When the Pilgrims sailed from England to America, they brought their pie-making skills — along with apple seeds — with them. This is how the expression “As American as apple pie” began.

The chicken, turkey, and deer that the Pilgrims depended on for food most likely were used in pies. Because their pies had crusty tops, they were also good for preserving food….

Sweetbread pie (similar to mince pie) was a favorite of George Washington’s….

Whichever pie tickles your taste buds the most, you can celebrate National Pie Day on January 23rd.

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