The Origins of Pie

Written by Phin Upham

In fifteenth century England, a new form of cooking was taking hold. Chefs were increasingly using thin sheets of dough to cook with, stuffing the interiors with delicious fillings. Most of these dishes were savory and filled with meats. The apple pie was part of this tradition, but not the superstar that it is today.

Food historians believe that the origin of the word pie related to magpies. The bird was often found to be collecting random items, which translates well to the preparation of pies. Especially in early pies, which often contained a collection of flavors.

Apple pie is an American staple, with a recipe that dates back to the cookbook of Martha Washington. These pies use the same dough as traditional recipes, but fat and sugars are added to make the treat sweeter.

Apples were fairly plentiful in colonial America, so the phrase “as American as apple pie” is actually rooted deep in history. It was uncommon to find meals in early America that didn’t feature apples in some form or another. Apples could also be made into puddings, or baked into fritters.

It’s difficult to replicate these early recipes, even though the ingredients are easy to find today. If we look at Martha Washington’s recipe, we notice two complications. The first is the absence of directions that we would consider standard today, like measurements and temperatures for the oven. The second is the language, which is archaic by today’s standards: “First coddle ye apples in faire water.”
Fortunately, the apple pie has not been lost to tradition and recipes in plain English persist.  

Phin Upham

Phin Upham is an investor from NYC and SF. You may contact Phin on his Twitter page.

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