[Sca-cooks] What constitutes modern food

Craig Daniel teucer at pobox.com
Mon Jan 25 11:29:00 PST 2010

On Mon, Jan 25, 2010 at 1:31 PM, Antonia di Benedetto Calvo
<dama.antonia at gmail.com> wrote:
> Laura C. Minnick wrote:
>> Antonia di Benedetto Calvo wrote:
>>> Millions of Australians and New Zealanders would be baffled by the idea
>>> that a meat pie isn't one-handed.
>> Er, inter-kingdom anthropology here- in general, when an American says
>> 'pie', they mean the 9-inch kind that you cut into wedges, usually
>> fruit-filled.
> *sigh* Yes, I know-- that's why I mentioned it would be Aussies and NZers
> who would be baffled.  In Aus and NZ, a typical meat pie is about four
> inches across and meant to be eaten out of the hand.
> (I don't quite see how stew on toast could be called one-handed, either.)

In the part of America I'm from (central North Carolina), my
experience (probably approximately typical but not universal) of how
we refer to pies is this:

Meat pies are foreign food. Non-British versions tend to be handheld
and referred to by culturally-specific terms such as "empanada" (sweet
empanadas are probably more common, but savory ones exist too, and man
are those things ever delicious) or "calzone," so if you're saying
something's a "meat pie" you probably mean that it's specifically
British in nature. The British varieties are called "pasties" when
handheld (even if they aren't actually Cornish pasties in the
judgement of British folks); this is a subset of "meat pies."

"Pies" without other qualifiers are sweet, often but not always
fruity, and always round and cut into slices. They include mincemeat
pies, which despite the name contain no meat (though they may contain
animal fat), but these aren't all that common - in fact I've never
actually been served one, now that I think about it.

The handheld kind, when filled with fruit, is a "turnover" (unless in
a Mexican or other Latin American context, in which case it's an
"empanada" even if it's completely identical to a typical turnover);
these are quite traditional in their own right. Calling a turnover a
"pie" would be at least a little bit strange, to me anyway, though
perhaps not actually incorrect. Partly I think that's because the
crust is different - a really flaky pastry crust doesn't seem so good
a fit for something handheld (which requires a certain degree of
sturdiness) - but partly it's because pies (with the exception of
pasties, which are meat pies but only mostly count as pies) are
normally expected to be round things that serve several people and are
cut into slices for serving.

I think I'd be inclined to call a non-fruity but sweet and basically
pie-like piece of handheld food a "turnover" rather than a "pie" or
some other term, but "turnover" normally does refer to a specifically
fruit-filled item.

There's also a brewpub in my area that's hoping to open up this spring
(they'd been shooting for earlier, so as much as I'm looking forward
to it I'm not exactly holding my breath) which plans on serving meat
pies that (they tell us) will be distinctly southern in style
(whatever that might mean), small enough to be held in one hand, and
(based on the photos they posted of their test batches) appear to be
cylindrical, like a mini pie, rather than having the typical half-moon
shape of most handheld pies (including turnovers). They're trying to
get the term "bullies" as a name of this foodstuff to catch on; I
suspect it will if and only if they manage to get the dish to take
root outside of their establishment, which seems unlikely. In any
event, while I'm aware of this goal, the term "bully" has not yet made
it into my vocabulary with a food-related meaning.

 - Jaume, mka Craig,
who had a very light lunch and is now making himself hungry

More information about the Sca-cooks mailing list