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The 1796 Cookbook “American Cookery” Included Recipes For Chicken Pot Pie, Beef Pot Pie, And “Sea Pie”

National Great American Pot Pie Day cooks up a toasty meal on September 23rd. Warm up the home with a toasty meal of pot pies to celebrate!

  • archaeologists do point to the Neolithic Age (about 9500 B.C.). They tell us that our ancestors made a pie that “was a flat crusty galette made from ground oat, wheat, rye, and barley and was filled with honey. It was baked over hot coals.”
  • Pot pie is believed to have originated in Greece. The Greeks cooked meats mixed with other ingredients in open pastry shells, and these were called Artocreas.
  • In the United States in the 19th century, Americans became enamored of a pie that featured robins. The settlers who came to the United States took their pot pie recipes with them when they moved westward.
  • By the present century, beef pot pies and chicken pot pies had become a widely popular American dish and are now mass-produced and sold in the frozen food aisles of most supermarkets in the United States
  • Over 3,000 years ago, royal bakers for the pharaohs of Egypt added some fruits. Drawings of this can be found in the Valley of the Kings, etched on the tomb walls of Ramses II.
  • The Romans added their own decadent spin. They created a galette filled with meats, oysters, mussels, lampreys, and fish. But there’s one problem. They tossed away the crust.
  • Unlike the flaky pastries that we make today, the crusts of the Romans were little more than a mixture of flour and olive oil. They were rock-hard and not meant to be a part of the meal, they were little more than a convenient vessel.
  • The state of the crust improved somewhat in Northern Europe. There the locals grew wheat and raised their own sheep, pigs, and cattle. And instead of olive oil, flour was mixed with butter or lard. With these winning ingredients, a proper meat pie was finally born.
  • But they weren’t being called pies, at least, not yet. These wonderful meat-filled pastries were called coffins (yes, just like it sounds, meaning a box). Members of royalty (of course) took even this humble dish to the next level. Songbirds were often cooked and used to “adorn” the top of each coffin to indicate the type of filling contained therein.
  • In fact, Britons during that era consumed meat pies of all sorts, including pork, lamb and game. They were especially fond of birds, and during the reign of Elizabeth I, English cooks made pot pies using “chicken peepers,” which consisted of tiny chicks stuffed with gooseberries.
  • Around the middle of the 16th Century, one cookbook included a sort of telescopic pie in which five birds were stuffed one inside the other, then wrapped in dough.
  • This fondness for meat pies soon spread to the New World. In the 19th Century, Americans became enamored of a pie that featured robins.
  • In the Pennsylvania Dutch region, some people make a dish called “bot boi” (or “Bottboi”) by Pennsylvania German-speaking natives. Pennsylvania Dutch pot pie is a stew without a crust. Most commonly made with chicken, it usually includes homemade dumpling-style dough noodles and potatoes, and sometimes vegetables such as carrots or celery
  • According to Smithsonian magazine, cooks from the Roman Empire era would sometimes make pot pies with a living bird that would burst through the pie shell when cut and fly out. Surprise! While this would scare any unsuspecting diner, this active meal was still prepared in 16th century England.
  • The cookbook American Cookery, published in 1796, included recipes for chicken pot pie, beef pot pie, and something called “Sea Pie,” which called for pigeons, turkey, veal and mutton.
  • Pot pies were also described as “Sea Pie.” This version typically included pigeons, turkey, veal and mutton. The name came from the pie being made aboard ships.
  • After World War II (in 1951), the Swanson Company began to produce chicken pot pies, individual meat pies available in the frozen food aisle of every grocery store. Meat pies were reintroduced to the American dinner table and the rest, as they say, is history.
  • The Galician empanada from northern Spain is a version made with chunks of pork or fish.
  • Cornish tin miners brought their hand-held meat pies, called pasties, with them to the copper and iron mines of upper Michigan.
  • The famous Greek spanakopita is essentially a spinach potpie in a phyllo crust.
  • Italy offers its Easter pie (torta Pasqualina) from Liguria. It is a quiche-like vegetable pie that at one time sported 33 layers, symbolizing Jesus Christ’s age when he was crucified.
  • Muscovites serve an open-top meat pie, somewhat similar in appearance to a deep-dish pizza, called rasstegai.
  • Tourtiere is a Quebecois pork-and-beef pie popular throughout the winter months, and a tradition in many French-Canadian homes on Christmas Eve.


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