Food History: Pie – Part 2

Thinking about Pie today…

What is a pie?

The pies we know today are a fairly recent addition to a history that goes back as long as mankind has had the dough to bake into a crust and stuff to put inside it. The purpose of a pastry shell was mainly to serve as a baking dish, storage container, and serving vessel, and in the past, these were often too hard to actually eat.

For hundreds of years, a pie was the only form of a baking container used, meaning everything was a pie.
Reposted from a Nov 24, 2016, 4:49 pm Facebook Post

Food History: Pie – Part 1

Thinking about pie today…

History of Pies

“Men may come and men may go…but Pie goes on forever.” ~ George Augustus Sala

Egyptian Pies
• Some early Egyptian pies were sometimes made in “reeds” which were used for the sole purpose of holding the filling and not for eating with the filling.
• 9500 B.C. – The origins of pie can loosely be traced back to approximately 9500 BC. These pie-like treats were made with oat, wheat, rye, and barley vessels, which were filled with honey and baked over hot coals.
• 1304 to 1237 B.C. – Bakers began to incorporated nuts, honey, and fruits in bread dough, a primitive form of pastry. Drawings of this can be found in the Valley of the Kings etched on the tomb walls of Ramses II, who was the third pharaoh in the 19th dynasty (1304 to 1237 B.C.)

Greek Pies
• Historians trace pie’s initial origins to the Greeks, who made a pastry shell by combining water and flour. The Greeks began the tradition of “galettes”, which is a free form pastry wrapped around a meat filling that served to cook the meat and seal in the juices.

Roman Pies
The Romans, sampling the Greek delicacy, carried home recipes. Romans used various types of meat in every course of the meal, including the dessert course (secundae mensea). According to historical records, oysters, mussels, lampreys, and other meats and fish were normal in Roman puddings. It is thought that the puddings were a lot like pies
160 B.C. – The Roman statesman, Marcus Porcius Cato (234-149 B.C.), also known as Cato the Elder, wrote a treatise on agriculture called De Agricultura. He loved delicacies and recorded a recipe for a popular cheesecake-like pie/cake called Placenta, which was baked on a pastry base, or sometimes inside a pastry case. Pies were also called libum by the Romans and were primarily used as an offering to their gods.
• The delights of the pie spread throughout Europe, via the Roman roads, where every country adapted the recipes to their customs and foods. The first pie recipe was published by the Romans and was for a rye-crusted goat cheese and honey pie.

Reposted from Nov 24, 2016, 4:49 pm Facebook post

Agri-Stats: Commodities Feed Us

“Vegetables have the shortest distance between the consumer and the farm. They are a tangible, edible link between us and the people we think of when we think ‘farmer.‘”

Commodity crops aren’t represented by “the farmer most of us meet at the farmers market, the one running the farm of our imagination.” But, commodity crops are what feed us. According to the FAO, about 60% of the world’s calories come from just 3 crops: corn, wheat, and rice. Other commodities such as sorghum, soybeans, and millet are important, too.

‘If we are going to feed [the billions of people on the earth in 2050], and us, responsibly and healthfully, vegetables are not the answer. 

Haspel, Tamar. We Need to Feed A Growing Plante. Vegetables Aren’t the Answer. The Washington Post. December 15, 2016.

Agri-Stats: How much do we spend on food?

In 2016, households in the middle-income quintile spent an average of $6,224 on food, representing 13.1 percent of income, while the lowest income households spent $3,862 on food, representing 32.6 percent of income.

Food-away-from-home’s share of total food expenditures rose to 50.1 percent in 2014, surpassing at-home food sales for the first time.

Food History: Squash


The English word “squash” derives from “askutasquash” (a green thing eaten raw), a word from the Narragansett language*,  Similar words for squash exist in related languages of the Algonquian family such as Massachusetts.

Squashes generally refer to four species of the genus Cucurbita:

  1. Cucurbit. maxima (Hubbard squash, Buttercup squash, some varieties of prize Pumpkins, such as Big Max),
  2. C. mixta (Crenshaw squash),
  3. C. moschata (Butternut squash), and
  4. C. pepo (most Pumpkins, Acorn squash, Summer squash, Zucchini).

In North America, squash is loosely grouped into summer squash or winter squash. Some varieties of which are also called marrows (mainly in British English). Gourds are from the same family as squashes.

Though considered a vegetable in cooking, botanically speaking, squash is a fruit (being the receptacle for the plant’s seeds). The squash fruit is classified as a pepo by botanists, which is a special type of berry with a thick outer wall or rind with a fleshy interior. 

Archaeological evidence suggests squash may have been first cultivated in Mesoamerica some 8,000 to 10,000 years ago and may have been independently cultivated elsewhere at a later date.

Squash was one of the “Three Sisters” planted by Native Americans. The Three Sisters were the three main native crop plants: maize (corn), beans, and squash. These were usually planted together, with the cornstalk providing support for the climbing beans, and shade for the squash. The squash vines provided ground cover to limit weeds. Weeds can be detrimental to the growing conditions of the squash. The beans provided nitrogen fixing for all three crops.

*Documented by Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island, in his 1643 publication A Key Into the Language of America.

Source: Wikipedia

Food History: Blueberries

Queen of Blueberries
Elizabeth White is THE pioneer of the modern, cultivated blueberry! ‘
She selected wild blueberries for flavor, texture, size, resistance to disease and cold, and how quickly each variety ripened. Then, she propagated and cross-fertilized various specimens to develop the optimal highbush blueberry and released their first harvest in 1916. 
Today, blueberries are bred in a similar manner.
I talked with a blueberry plant breed for Driscoll’s this week. She was headed to the San Joaquin Valley to do blueberry breeding trial selections for some 10,000 plants. Each plant will be judged by many of the same criteria that were used in the early 1900s, as well as plant morphology.
Great Food! 

Food History: Pigs

Lesser Beasts: A Snout-to-Tail History of the Humble Pig by Mark Essig – review

Why the pig is so loved and so shunned … this is a witty history of western civilization told through our four-legged pork producer. 

Jeffreys, Henry. Book Review. The Guardian. May 28, 2015.

Food Systems: Organic


In 2015, The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that the organic industry continued to show remarkable growth domestically and globally, with 19,474 certified organic operations in the United States and a total of 27,814 certified organic operations around the world.

According to data released by the Agricultural Marketing Service’s (AMS) National Organic Program (NOP), the number of domestic certified organic operations increased by more than 5 percent over the last year. Since the count [of farms] began in 2002, the number of domestic organic operations has increased by over 250 percent.

An ongoing list of USDA certified organic operations and reports on the number of certified operations can be found at

Food History: Cumin

The History of Cumin

“Once [cumin] has been introduced into a new land and culture, cumin has a way of insinuating itself deeply into the local cuisine, which is why it has become one of the most commonly used spices in the world,” writes Gary Nabhan, author and social science researcher at the University of Arizona Southwest Center, in his recent book, Cumin, Camels, and Caravans.”

Nabham’s book is about spices and global trade and the effect that has had on history and culture. Cumin was found in the world’s oldest recipe collection in Mesopotamia in 1750 B.C. It has been prevalent in the Middle East since then. Cumin spread with the Roman Empire; and then, spread again by European colonists.

Mascevich, Adam. From Ancient Sumeria to Chipotle Tacos, Cumin Has Spiced Up the World. NPR. March 11, 2015.


2012 National Locally-Grown Food

The Local Food Movement Is Growing Up: 

  • 163,600 farms were engaged in local food sector across the country
  • $6.1 billion in locally grown food was sold
  • 2006-2014 – the number of farmers markets jumped from 180% to 8,260 markets
  • > 4,300 school districts spent > $385 million on local food thru farm-to-school programs
  • > 135 operational food hubs now move local food from farmers to meet wholesale, retail and institutional customers

Harden, Krysta. The Local Food Movement Is Growing Up. Modesto Bee. March 4, 2015.

Reposted from March 07, 2015 8:05am Facebook Post