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Historic Foodways is proud to introduce a new series of programs we are affectionately calling Theme Days. Each month staff will prepare dishes using a specific type of food or an ingredient, delving deeper into its history and uses and giving our guests a more in-depth and engaging experience. To kick off Theme Days, Historic Foodways will be celebrating Pi Day on March 14, 2017 by making, what else, but pies!
Pi (Greek letter “π”) is the symbol used in mathematics to represent a constant, the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, which is approximately 3.14159. So, for all circles of any size, pi will be the same. There is also an 18th-century connection. The Greek letter “π” was first used in by William Jones in 1706. A ‘p’ was chosen for ‘perimeter’ of circles, and the use of π became popular after it was adopted by the Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler in 1737.
In recent years, pi has been calculated to over one trillion digits past its decimal. Only 39 digits past the decimal are needed to accurately calculate the spherical volume of our entire universe!
Though our repertoire of 18th-century pie recipes is vast, it is certainly not infinite like our friend pi. Many visitors to our kitchens are surprised to learn that most pies in the period are not made of fruit, though they can and do contain fruit, but were meat-based instead. A pie made from beef was exceedingly popular, as were combinations of different types. It was not unusual to find combinations of several types of meats, including rabbit, veal, sweetbreads, beef, and pork.
Fish pies often included regional fish, oysters, lobster, and eel, Poultry could include duck, goose, chicken, pigeon, and even the exotic peacock. It also was not unusual to find meat, fruit, and fish mixed in the same recipe. Shropshire pie, a combination of rabbit, beef, and oysters, is a good example.
For fruit pies, traditional apple was the hands-down favorite, though the use of cinnamon was not common. Other fruits included pear and quince.
Mincemeat, a combination of apples, beef suet, currants, raisins, candied peel, alcohol, and spices, does not necessarily have to contain meat. Our favorite is a recipe from Hannah Glasse that contains no meat in the filling, but you can include slices of beef tongue when putting the pie together to bake.
Theme Days will be held at the Palace Kitchen, and is included in your regular admission ticket. Mark your calendar and join us for all our 2017 Theme Days. We hope to see you there!