American pie is a much-vaunted cultural export, a sweet comfort food that Americans from any state can unite behind enjoying and the subject of much regional pride. Don McClean wrote an eight-and-a-half minute long song about this delicious dessert, and a whole series of Hollywood documentaries have been produced detailing the delight that American Pie can bring to school-aged teens. However, in the pie-speaking world, it’s a poor cousin to the other pies that Americans miss out on in their devotion to sweet and sugar snacks, especially their beloved apple pie.
Historically, the pie-polarity across the Atlantic was reversed. With few apple trees available in the Americas, the colonists would much more commonly eat meat pies, and the apples they did have would go towards making (hard) cider instead. Now, cider in America is normally non-alcoholic and served to children, meat pies are a relative rarity and apple pie has become as American as… well, you see my point.
Pie in America is generally a sweet dish, with a double-crust encasing a layer of fruit. Some variants exist, such as deep-dish apple pie, containing only a top-crust, and various bottom-crust tarts, such as the Christmas staple of pecan pie, or The Official Pie of the State of Florida, key-lime pie, whose status was determined by a 38-1 vote in the Senate and a 106-14 vote in the House of Congress. 4 of the 14 naysayers in Congress, it should be noted, later changed their votes in favour of the pie.
This bill designates key lime pie as the official state pie.
This bill creates section 15.052, Florida Statutes.
II. Present Situation:
Currently, no pie is designated as the official state pie.
Meat pie is a relative rarity in the USA, but they do have one offering that comes close, pot pie (most commonly filled with chicken), which I have yet to have a good experience with. A pot pie is closer to a pasty than a true pie, and generally requires a pie dish to maintain its shape, being fully encased with puff pastry. The interior is often a light stew, not to be confused with British chicken & mushroom or chicken & leek pies.
A true meat pie, however, is an experience not to be trifled with. Instead of a flaky puff pastry, the bottom crust of this pie is a solid, stable crust made with suet (raw beef fat) or lard (raw pig fat), neither of which appear to be readily available in the USA, but can apparently be obtained from some butchers. The inside is a thick gravy, stuffed with meat and bursting at the seams as soon as it is touched. Local pubs and breweries in the UK will often offer a steak & ale pie made with their signature ale and served with mash & peas — there’s no better treat after a day out in the countryside.
Britain has yet more to offer aside from these. Cornish pasties, which the Cornish claim as their ‘national dish’ – refusing to accept English dominance in true Celtic style – are an inimitable treat and finding one at the bottom of a well-used rucksack that hasn’t been touched for weeks is a cause for immediate celebration. They are, however, best enjoyed warm and from within Cornwall, with the various supermarket brands a mere shadow of the real stuff. A Cornish pasty is generally made with minced beef, potato, swede and onions, wrapped in a thick crust, crimped at one side.
Pork pies likewise confuse the Americans. They’re one of the few meat products which can be brought through US customs without being wrapped in innumerable jumpers and accidentally missed off the customs declaration forms, but when my father brought one over for me when he came to visit, the customs officers were very much intrigued, and spent a long time questioning him over them. Then again, it possibly didn’t help when he replied to the innocent question, “What’s a pork pie?” with “It’s pork. In a pie.” For the record, it’s cooked pork and pork fat, wrapped in pork jelly, sealed in a hot-water crust pastry, generally eaten cold, and it’s lovely.
Finally, I failed to work this into the narrative, but I still want to take a moment to note that there’s such a thing as a pie bird. In the old days, at kingly feasts, a bird would be placed on top of each pie to indicate the filling, and this led to the concept of the pie bird, which is a decorative cooking aide that allows steam to escape from a cooking pie.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to wipe the saliva from my keyboard before it drowns.