Pie: a global history is an excellent Summer read for non-fiction lovers

As summer approaches, people love borrowing smaller, lighter library books. When I say “lighter” I don’t just mean they like paperbacks, although this is markedly true: I mean they like books with a bit of humour and colour. Gritty tragedies and literary novels are put aside, and romance vies with cozy murder for the attention of our customers.

But what should you read if you want something non-fictional? This is always a tricky question. If you want a jilted lover with an icepick, or a jilted lover with a secret baby, well, we can supply you no end of books. But what, you may be asking, should you read if you’d prefer something that doesn’t involve either a forensics lab or a wedding?

Well, were I you, I’d read Pie: a global history by Janet Clarkson. It’s in hardback, but is a tiny little book. It’s a sort of humourous ramble, and considers where the idea of the pie came from, and the many twists and turns in the history of this gastronomic treat. It’s more a book of amusing food history than a cookbook, but there are still many recipies for odd variants of pie, often based on historical dishes.

I love pies, in the lazy way of a cook who buys his pastry. My go-to pies are a sort of savoury red lentil and vegetable pie, as a vegetarian main, or apple, as a desert. I’ve had a bit of a stab at pear pies this year and now finally see the point of those rock hard, brown things pretending to be pears next to the fragrant and luscious Bartletts. As I’m typing this I’m thinking that the strips of not-chicken I was going to fry with onions and sumac would probably make an excellent pie filling, but what for gravy?  White bean paste thinned with mock chicken stock?  Yum…

Clarkson, the author, is an avid food history blogger, so if you’d like to sample her style before you check out her book, wander on over to The Old Foodie and see if she grabs your interest.  Her site’s great even if she, heretic as she is, doesn’t consider a shepherd’s pie to be a pie.  Perhaps they make them differently over there…or she objects to it on the basis that, frankly, it does not have a lid and is thus failed as an exemplar of the pie.

If you have a favourite pie, please share it in the comments.  8)