Friday, September 21, 2007


There are a few things available in the UK that I greatly miss here in the US of A. (There are a lot of things I don't miss, but that's another topic.) One of them is a pork pie. For those bereft of knowledge of this wonder of food, a (circular in shape) pork pie is made of cooked pork (the name gives that away - duh) although which parts of the pig are used is best not asked, which is wrapped in a delightful crusty pastry. Between the pastry and the meat, a 'jelly' is used. Personally, I don't like the jelly and discard it, but I've been told by learned friends that this is the best part. Be that may, there's nothing quite like a pork pie and a bag of crisps (chips in these here parts) - smoky bacon flavor is my favorite. I have frequently arrived at a UK airport and visited a small food emporium at the airport to buy these items and consume them before embarking to the world outside. Always good at 07:30 in the morning on a cold day in the UK, whereby one's brain struggles to accept the 07:30 time instead of 02:30 at home, and the 35 degree drop in temperature. There is a drawback, of course - I have to eat with my fingers, as a knife and fork are not supplied. Nor is a napkin. Shudder.

In a moment of being unable to sleep, I started to think about pork pies. An insomniac sometimes uses the time to further enhance his education.

So I've discovered a fascinating piece of information that will no doubt change some peoples' lives. In the 17th century, the pastry on the outside of a pork pie was known as the 'coffyn', and was there merely as wrapping to keep the meat intact. It was thrown away with only the meat being eaten. Sad. In later years, the populace started eating the pastry, mainly due to poverty and a lack of edible material.

The 'home' of the pork pie is a town in England called Melton Mowbray, whereby the manufacturers of said pie are strict in their claim that only a Melton Mowbray pork pie deserves to be called a pork pie. A somewhat dubious claim in my view, as the most prolific purveyors of pork pies are a company called Dickinson & Morris which has (only) been baking pork pies at Ye Olde Pork Pie Shoppe in Melton Mowbray since 1851.

After complaints from Dickinson & Morris, the European Union governing mandarins have pondered the question of the rights to use the term a 'Melton Mowbray Pork Pie' for years. Even Dickinson & Morris have admitted that their pork pies are made in the nearby city of Leicester. So much for authenticity.

Nowadays, supermarkets' own brands of pork pies proliferate, and in my view, are equally tasty, have less jelly and are much cheaper.

In my days of living in Palm Springs California, an enterprising Brit took to making pork pies and selling them. He was soon forced out of business by the authorities for using ingredients that were not authorized in California, and his attempts at using authorized food failed dramatically.

The pork pie gave birth to a famous hat - the pork pie hat, as worn by Gene Hackman in the movie 'The French Connection'. The hat does resemble a pork pie, without the rim, of course. Sadly, we rarely see a pork pie hat these days. I would love to have one. It would keep the sun out of my eyes when cycling.

Here endeth today's lesson.