The pie, to quote one Victorian writer, `is a great human discovery which has universal estimation among all civilized eaters'. Of course, there are a number of different views about how to define a pie and Ms Clarkson resorted to the following quote by Raymond A. Sokolov: `I may not be able to define a pie, but I know one when I see it.'
Have you ever wondered about the origins of the pie, or about the number of different varieties of pies available? If you like eating pies, do you enjoy making them? Is your favourite pie sweet, or savoury?
Janet Clarkson, who writes regularly on culinary history, has written this delightful book all about pies. Ms Clarkson begins by looking at the history of the pie and of pastry-making, and then discussing different pie designs and fillings.
`A pie is invariably acclaimed as a treat and a sign of a caring cook.'
Did you know, for example, that pies were sometimes called coffins? Or that early pies often had a crust several inches thick, and that this crust was not intended to be eaten, but to preserve the contents for up to a year? The pie was once a very pragmatic dish with a very long shelf-life. These days, pies are often an expression of creative culinary art. Pies are adaptable and portable, and they can be nutritious and tasty. It all depends on the cook and the contents. The contents? A pie can be `an economical investment for all miscellaneous savings' as Charles Dickens wrote in `Our Mutual Friend', it can even contain blackbirds or dancing girls. Personally, I'd prefer chicken or fruit.
I enjoyed reading this book on a cold autumn afternoon. In addition to all of the wonderfully informative facts, and even a selection of historical recipes, there are some delightful illustrations. It's interesting, too, to consider the various international variations: Britain's pork pie; America's apple pie and Australia's meat pie. And let's not forget the role of pies in modern culture: from Sweeney Todd to Laurel and Hardy, the pies have it.
As an Australian I have eaten pies all my life. From the grand celebratory pies cooked by my Mum and other older members of my family to small English pork pies and Star-Gazy-pudding in Cornwall and of course the famous Australian Meat Pie of local sport and musical fame! I also enjoy cooking a large dinner-table pie occasionally to share on cool winter evenings with family and friends.
This little book delves into the heritage and history of pies and their consumption, mainly in Europe, but also around the world in different guises. It was a fascinating journey full of interest and surprise!
The author introduced me to not just the different savoury and sweet pies, but also to the technical side of pastry and gluten required to make this apparently simple food presentable, edible and functional. I just can't imagine the grand decorated offerings and their wildly various fillings of yesteryear! Dining at a great house table must have been such an adventure on occasion!
As always, I have learned more about the world and the place this remarkable animal, man, and his creative brain occupies. We really are a clever creature!!
Anyone who is familiar with Clarkson's wonderful blog, The Old Foodie ([...]) will hardly be surprised that this book is a delight. It is carefully researched and presented with warm and charming intelligence. From the earliest crust-encased meats to modern fruit pies, with stops along the way for legend and lore, this is a truly tasty volume for anyone interested in how what we eat came to be.