Why apple pie isn’t American

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/05/29/why-apple-pie-isnt-american.html

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While the real point of the video (that interchange between various parts of the world created cuisine as we know it today) has merit, the particular example of apple pie not being American because the ingredients came from elsewhere is rather weak. For better or worse, the sort of “American” referred to in “American as apple pie” isn’t referring to Native Americans or crops they had.


The video fails to mention that apple pie recipies go back to the 1300’s in medieval England and a bit later in medieval Europe, so you can’t even properly call the dish itself “American.”

Really the only thing uniquely American avout Apple pie is the slogan, “As American as motherhood and Apple Pie,” which dates back to World War 1 as the thing American soldiers thought they ought to say they were fighting for to journalists.


Apple Pie is a great metaphor because it includes parts from all over the world, and originated somewhere else and was later assimilated into American culture.

It is pretty fascinating some of the New World crops the became staples around the world. Two she didn’t mention were potatoes and corn (which was INVENTED by the natives in what is now central and south America). I mean potatoes and the Irish are a ubiquitous association, while the Poles and Russians could barely imagine a world with out potato vodka.

At the same time, the Old World super lucked out with its massive amounts of domesticated animals. The New World had almost none (llamas, turkeys, alpaca, and guinea pigs). This not only hindered their ability to use animals for labor and food, but prevented them from developing plagues. Which means when the Europeans came, the swapping of disease was very one sided. They New World did give them syphilis.


Yes, but that was a time when even Irish immigrants were looked upon as being “different” and English and American cultures were seen as the same thing – Columbia and Britannia walking hand-in-hand as the propaganda posters went.


This video is going to give America First types the sads.


Well, North America did actually have a native apple; unfortunately it was the crab apple.


Why do you hate freedom? Go back to Afghanistan! They have a nice goat pie waiting for you!


[quote=“Mister44, post:4, topic:101747”]
It is pretty fascinating some of the New World crops the became staples around the world. Two she didn’t mention were potatoes and corn
[/quote]Other important ones are common beans, the whole cucurbita genus, and chili peppers, now diversified into various cultivars that became staples of specific cuisines around the world.


But hamburgers and frankfurters are totally from NYC, right?


What’s more American than cultural appropriation?


A bit. But IRRC the concept of sweet, desert pies in general is relatively recent. And was developed and embraced in the US to a far greater extent than most of the old world. Those 14th century apple pies were not necessarily sweet fillings packed into flaky pastry. They were heavily spiced mixes of fruit baked into dense, inedible shells for preservation purposes. Savory meat pies were more the norm. And as sweet versions and soft pastry became more common applications like tarts and pastries were (and still are) more the norm in Europe compared to typical American style pies.

So while American Apple pie is quite similar to its immediate (modern) predecessors in England and The Netherlands. Americans do have something unique going on with pie. Its pervasiveness and variety here. Which exceeds that of other countries. To the point where those other countries often associate pie with the US as much or more so than Americans. My European friends and family often point out that they “don’t have” pie “like this” at home before stopping and realizing oh wait there are these specific deserts that are pie. Unlike Americans who invariably put everything into a sweet desert pie, argue over who has or makes the best pie. In a nation where restaurants will advertise based on having 25+ varieties of pie on offer.


The phrase doesn’t mean that it’s American by invention, it means “as commonplace, in America, as apple pie.”


Damn it, now I want BBQ goat. and apple pie for dessert! :yum:


They’re way beyond this video.
Their slogan is “as American as buckets of dehydrated prepper supplies.”


Well, my go-to medieval cookbook, Pleyn Delit, has a recipe for “Tartys in Applis”.

(Measurements and instructions modernised by the authors – but they note in the book’s introduction they tried to keep to the original medieval flavours as much as possible.)

About 2lbs of apples
Optional: substitute in 1-2 very firm pears for some of the apples
About 1/2c dried figs or prunes, stoned and chopped
1/3c raisins
1/2c sugar (brown, white, or a combination)
1/4 tsp each cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, salt
1/8 tsp ground cloves
Pinch saffron or tumeric
Pastry for one pie shell

The instructions say to use smaller pieces of fruit than we do today, but otherwise you’re just baking a pie. Those are more types of spices than we’re used to using in one pie today, but the amounts aren’t exactly off the charts.

While I know the average American recipe calls for more sugar, to be honest, with all the dried fruit included, when I finally get 'round to trying this recipe out (only made savouries from the book so far), I’ll probably either halve the amount or leave it out entirely. It’s true American baking (and yogurt,and a whole lot of other things) are more sugary than the rest of the world prefers, but I’m not sure that means the rest of us aren’t eating dessert.

As for the crust… they did start out as simply disposable containers to keep the filling clean in the oven, but they were eaten if clean and tasty enough. Certainly even nowadays it’s not unusual for someone to leave the crust on their plate.

ETA: the book includes other sweet fruit pie recipes, but they all also include custard. Not sure if this is representative or if they just ran out of space. There were far more pudding and custard recipes. The introduction to the sweets section states, “Most – if not all – medieval feasts ended with a sweets course.”


What’s more American European than cultural appropriation?


America is so good at cultural appropriation that we even appropriated that.


Quite the opposite.

Desert pie? Sounds kinda, I dunno, sandy.