Top 10 Foods – The Origin of Pie

They are a symbol of home, of Americana, of simplicity. They are the classic way to finish off a meal — everyone saves room for pie — and if the menu offerings of McDonalds restaurants are to be trusted, we are all “Lovin’ it”. But the history of pie has been anything but easy.

You could say that pies date back as far as 9500 B.C. in Egypt, when the Egyptians began baking food into pastry shells in order to make them easier to transport. Evidence of these early pies can be seen on the walls of some Egyptian tombs, specifically that of Pharaoh Ramses. While often filled with sweets like honey, fruits and nuts, there were also “savoury” versions of pie which featured whole birds and vegetables.  When this type of pie was prepared, the legs of the bird were left exposed through the pie shell to be used as handles.

The early Egyptians, did not enjoy the flakey, buttery crust we have today as the original pie crust was hard and not intended to be eaten; their crusts were considered a disposable baking dish. The majority of pies were made with covers, which were known as ‘coffyns’ (literally meaning basket or box) while the lidless pies were called ‘traps’.  Egyptians shared pies with the Greeks, who turned over their recipes to the Romans who then took the notion of stuffing and baking pastry and spread it across their empire.

Pies slowly made their way into England, around the 12th century. Where they gained popularity. This is when people likely would have started eating the crust as it was passed down to servants after the people of the household ate the contents. By the 16th century, English chefs were creatively baking live birds into pies to be served as entertainment a dinner parties or Entremet. If you’ve ever sang the nursery rhyme A Song of Six-Pence as a child, you were singing a song from this point in time.

That which made pie easy to transport in its early days in Egypt, also made pie a natural choice for food to be brought over by colonial settlers traveling to America. Though there is no evidence of pies being served at any of the first feasts after the pilgrims landed, pies have become a staple of Thanksgiving dinners and the preferred choice of dessert for many American dinner tables.

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