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Pie’s Humble History

Pies-Humble-History

By Evanne Schmarder #65409

At the intersection of the late summer and fall fruit and vegetable harvest, and the anticipation of the holiday seasons’ tables aplenty, I simply cannot overlook the pull of pie. Fruit pie, mock pie, hand pie, shepherd’s pie, pot pie—they all call my name. Every time, I answer: “Hello, lovely!”

Luckily, as RVers, we have the opportunity to sample an endless variety of pies, as well as signature pies, from various regions along our travel routes.

Pie Lessons
Pie is an American icon, rich with debate over favorite flavors, single or double crust, and whether to have an ample scoop of ice cream on top of your slice. Although we think of it as a product of the U.S., and perhaps our special spin on pie is uniquely ours, pie is full of history, spanning the globe and the centuries.

From Ancient Rome to Mesopotamia, and from Medieval Europe to the arrival of the colonists, pie has played a starring culinary role. It’s especially interesting to learn that hieroglyphics representing a pie ancestor, the galette (open-faced pie), were found on the walls in the tomb of Pharaoh Ramses II (ruling from 1304 to 1237 BC), located in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings.

While some pies of the past were fruit, nut and honey-based, the majority were meat pies. The filling was the main attraction, with the crust, which we look forward to as light, flaky and buttery, usually being inedible. It was simply created as a container, referred to as a coffyn (a box), in which to cook the filling. The point was to preserve the drippings and keep the meat moist.

Standing pies were designed to feed a crowd and “keep any length of time.” They consisted of tall, rock-hard shells filled with meat (often pork) or fish. A large opening would be cut into the top of the pie shell where servings could be taken. Melted lard or butter would then be poured into the pie hole to seal it and preserve the filling, awaiting a later meal.

Doing the Pie Shuffle
I’d be remiss in my duties if I didn’t thrill you with the story of animated pies. This is an interesting case of birds, turtles, rabbits, even small people, emerging when the crust was cut. In the case of a dwarf popping out of a pie, they were said to walk up and down the length of the table, delighting the guests and making merry. According to the What’s Cooking America, “History of Pies” webpage, in 1626:

England’s King Charles I (1600–1649) and 15-year-old Queen Henrietta Maria (1609–1669) passed through Rutland and were being entertained at a banquet given in their honor by the Duke and Duchess of Buckingham. At the dinner, an enormous crust-covered, cold pie was brought before the royal couple. Before the queen could cut into the pie, the crust began to rise and from the pie emerged a tiny man, a perfectly proportioned body only 18 inches tall, named Jeffrey Hudson (1619–1682). Hudson, seven years old and the smallest human that anyone had ever seen, was dressed in a suit of miniature armor. He climbed out of a gilded pastry pie, stood shyly on the table in front of the queen and bowed low. Hudson was later dubbed Lord Minimus. He would remain with the queen for the next 18 years, serving as the Queen’s Dwarf, where he became a trusted companion and court favorite, famous in his own right.

Modern Pies
Around that same time period, colonists arrived in North America, bringing with them the tradition of pie making. To stretch resources, pies were prepared in a round container, literally “cutting corners.” The new Americans began moving away from England’s established meat pies, which they began calling pot pies, towards something they could call their own. American pie became synonymous with fruit. But the real game changer, the event that propelled pie into the all-American psyche, was the beginning of sugar refineries on U.S. soil. In the early 1800s, sugar became readily available and affordable. Pies were made with fruits and vegetables, sweetened with sugar, and served for breakfast, dessert and as a holiday tradition. During the Depression, resources were scarce and the “mock apple pie,” made with Ritz crackers seasoned like an apple pie, became a staple in many kitchens.

Try These Pies
Today pie is experiencing a renaissance. Avid fans can enjoy mini-pies baked in a cupcake pan, pie bars or one of my personal favorites, Tiger Pie (chicken or beef) with mashed peas, potatoes and gravy. According to the American Pie Council, 90 percent of Americans claim that a slice of pie represents one of life’s simple pleasures. In my humble opinion, making and baking in my modest but mighty RV kitchen is part of that pleasurable journey. To that end, here are two terrific pie recipes, sweet and meat, to tickle your taste buds.

SWEET:
My Friend Jana’s Zucchini Mock Apple Pie

6 cups zucchini that has been peeled, cored and chunky sliced
1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1-1/4 cup sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons apple pie spice
2 tablespoons Minute Tapioca or flour
9-inch unbaked pie shell (defrosted if using a frozen pie shell)

Streusel Topping
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 cup butter

Directions
• In a large saucepan, combine zucchini with lemon juice, sugar and apple pie spice.
• Simmer over medium heat until zucchini is fork tender, but not mushy, approximately 20 minutes.
• Remove from heat and add either tapioca or flour.
• Pour into unbaked pie shell. Sprinkle with streusel topping (combine brown sugar and flour and cut in butter until crumbly).
• Place on a foil-covered baking sheet, and bake at 350 degrees, for 45 minutes* or until pie is bubbly and browned. Serve warm or cold, with or without ice cream.

MEAT:
RV Cooking Show’s Tasty Turkey Pot Pie

2 frozen pie crusts
16-oz bag of frozen mixed vegetables (as upscale or basic as you wish)
1+ cups of leftover turkey, chunked
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
Chicken broth
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 to 1/2 cup either Parmesan or Romano cheese, grated
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions
• Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
• Set out one pie crust to thaw.
• In a large sauté pan, cover frozen vegetables with water and simmer until cooked. Drain the vegetables.
• In the same pan, make a roux (To make roux, melt butter, add flour, stir to combine and allow to brown.)
• Slowly add chicken broth to pan. It will seize into a paste at first, continue adding until it’s a thick liquid. Add white wine and bubble approximately five minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Add more broth as needed, but keep it thick; it’ll loosen in the oven.
• Add turkey and vegetables to the sauce and warm it. Add cheese, letting it melt into the mixture.
• Pour turkey, vegetable and sauce mixture into the frozen crust. Top with the thawed crust. (You’ll probably have too much crust on top. Trim as needed and press edges together with fork tines to make it look pretty.) Cut a few vent slits on the top in an attractive pattern.
• Place on a foil-covered baking sheet, and bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes*, then decrease heat to 350 degrees and bake until the edges are brown and the top is golden.
• Remove and cool slightly so the liquid thickens—enjoy.

* Shield the crust edges with aluminum foil for a portion of the baking time to avoid burnt edges.

Evanne Schmarder is sure she got the wanderlust bug from her grandparents. In 2000, she and her husband, Ray, set off on their own adventure, in search of a sunny place to settle down. Seventeen-plus years later, they’re still roaming the country, sharing interesting destinations and cooking up delicious RV kitchen recipes in their popular RV TV series, RVCookingShow.com.

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