We all know pie as an all-American treat that’s come to be a tradition on the Thanksgiving table to the Fourth of July picnic. But it wasn’t always that way.
Here are some interesting facts you may not know about the now-iconic dessert, thanks to information dug up by the American Pie Council, TIME magazine and What’s Cooking America.
Pies go way back. The earliest evidence of pie-like meals dates to the ancient Greeks, who are believed to have invented pastry dough, but the Egyptians were eating honey folded inside a flat cake as far back as 9500 BC. The Romans spread the idea across Europe and published the first pie recipe, for a rye crust filled with goat cheese and honey. By Medieval times, “pye” was a popular dish in England. These early pie-lovers favored a thick crust (“coffyn”) and savory fillings, usually fowl. Often the legs were left on the bird and hung over the edge of the pie, acting as “handles” for the eater to grab. Fruit pies emerged sometime in England in the 1500s. Queen Elizabeth I — or someone in her kitchen — is credited with the invention of the cherry pie.
There was no pumpkin pie at the first Thanksgiving. The Pilgrims cooked fowl and venison at the first Thanksgiving feast, and some of this meat may have been baked in a crust, but there’s no historical evidence for a sweet pie the way we make it now. The pumpkin pie didn’t gain widespread appeal until the early 1800s and has its origins in a 1675 British recipe that called for spiced and boiled squash. From the late 1800s to the 1940s, the popularity of sweet pies exploded. A cookbook in the late 1800s had recipes for eight sweet varieties. By 1947, the Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking counted 65.
That pastry topping isn’t just for looks. Early American settlers used the crusty tops as a preservative, and to keep the filling fresh during the winter months.
Mark Twain used pie as a pick-me-up. His favorite way to have a happy pie day and beat the blahs was to eat at least half of a huckleberry pie, washed down with a quart of icy milk.
Pie throwing, or pieing, dates back to slapstick comedy routines of the early 1900s. It’s since also come to be used as a prank and to make a political statement. Famous targets for a pie-in-the-face include Andy Warhol, Bill Gates, George W. Bush and Rupert Murdoch.
The American Pie Council suggests celebrating the traditional crusty dessert — the “ultimate comfort food” — by giving the treat to hometown heroes, like the local police or fire department, sharing slices with coworkers, making a pie from scratch with children or surprising a new neighbor with a welcome pie. Now that’s a happy pie day!
What’s your favorite pie and why? Tell us in the comments!
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