Do you ever think about what it means to be an American? These days, it’s an especially potent question. Do you like pie? This question may not be so tough to answer. Everyone does. It’s sweet, and comforting, and….
February is American Pie Month. If we were to look closely at the history of this classic treat, we’d learn that its origins can be traced back as far as the early Egyptians. Traditionally, pies were made of meat that was heavily spiced and baked in a ‘coffin’ – an inedible version of our beloved crust. These meat pies could then travel and were shelf stable. Eventually, Americans discovered this technique and created the pot pie. Perhaps you’ve seen the Tim Burton version of Sweeney Todd? If not, I suggest you do, because you’ll never look at a meat pie the same way.
The earliest known reference to apple pie comes from England in 1381. It isn’t even an American invention! Actually, crabapples are the only native species to our continent, and if you’ve ever taken a bite of a crabapple off the tree, then you know they’re not the sweet tender fruit of our romantic American dreams.
Fortunately for all of the apple lovers out there, a man was born in Leominster, Massachusetts by the name of John Chapman. You know him as Johnny Appleseed. Yes, Johnny Appleseed really existed, and we have him to thank for apple cider and our delicious apple pie. Johnny travelled west with a bag full of apple seeds and created nurseries all along Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana. He would leave these baby trees in the care of local people, and come back every few years to check on their growth. His care for the land, and usual unkempt appearance and bare feet, earned him national fame.
The next time you cut yourself a slice of pie – and you should, because February’s almost over – think about native Massachusetts legend Johnny Appleseed. And if you’re still craving more, the National Pie Championship is May 5-6, and judges are needed!