Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Everyone Loves Pie

Now that Halloween has passed and Thanksgiving is on the horizon, the holiday season is here. With all the hustle and bustle about to begin, I wanted to take a minute and talk about pies. Pie has been one of America's top desserts long before the stars and stripes.

Back in the days of the Pilgrims, the pioneers learned to stretch ingredients using different kinds of fruits and berries that grew wild in the woods or along fence rows. In those days the pies had more crust than filling, but as pies caught on each generation widened the variety and improved the quality. The natural progression led us to experiment with new recipes. Pie has kept up with the times. Now, with modern science and cultivation, we can get fruits and berries year round or from other counties with minimal effort and cost.

The history of pies fascinates most. The ingenuity and creativity of the pioneers were astonishing. The colonial women literally used round pans to cut corners and stretch ingredients. They baked shallow pies for most of the same reasons. Rhubarb (a new world garden plant) was called "pie plant." The golden pastries were made with three available staples, lard, flour and water.

During the golden age of the Greeks is when pastry originated. When the Romans conquered Greece they sampled the delicacy and took the recipes home with them via the Roman roads. The pastry recipes spread throughout Europe where the different cultures adapted the recipes to their foods and customs. When the colonies started here in America, they followed suit with what they had. Experimenting in their kitchens, the colonists came up with different pastries they had made from the old country.

Regional pies developed. Pumpkin in New England (a native vegetable), Pecan Pie in the south, "nervous pies" (custards with fruits) in the Pennsylvania Dutch kitchens. Pies were important pleasures in pioneer life. It is said that once a ship was bringing molasses to Connecticut and was delayed at sea, the colony decided to postpone their Thanksgiving celebration until the ship arrived so they could use the molasses to make pumpkin pie. Thanksgiving dinner in New England even today is not complete without pumpkin pie.

Whether you like apple, cherry, pumpkin, lemon, chocolate, pecan or coconut pie, fruit pies, custard and cream pies, hearty main dish pies such as chicken or beef pot pies, crusts that are made with rice, potato, graham cracker, corn or pastry, the possibilities are endless. Get the pioneering spirit back this holiday season, experiment and enjoy.

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