09 | Mar | 17

Hugh Thomas

National Treasure

For a food that was invented by the Egyptians, developed by the Greeks, and proliferated by the Romans, you might be a bit stretched to call the pie ‘British’. But, much like the way we adopted and adapted fish n’ chips and chicken tikka, British it is. We like pie so much we’ve named one week in the year after it.

If we had an icon for British street food, would it be the pie? It has, after all, been the ‘working man’s lunch’ for a few centuries – especially going back to the eel, pie, and mash street vendors of yore. It’s a dish we’ve taken and popularised among countries all around the world – Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand being just a few. Even the Yanks can’t resist a spot of pie, Thanksgiving or not.

Pie started on the streets in Victorian times. Thanks to a few traders, it’s still sold there. Nowadays we have the ever-present Pieminister, who you might know by their restaurants and cafes (but, pray, have you seen their van?); The Hull Pie – silver medallists at the British Pie Awards; MyPie, whose pie-slinging adventures commonly take place among the throng of city suits in Broadgate Circle; Pie Eyed, who’re currently doing the rounds at Sheffield’s Union Café, and Pietanic, who’re making a special appearance at Birmingham’s Digbeth Dining Club this weekend.

While we’re at it, dare we mention the inimitable Andy Bates, whose Eat My Pies pastry parcels won Best Pie at the very first British Street Food Awards? That was back in 2010. Now, he’s about to bring pies – and an assortment of other British classics – to the West Coast of the US. We said Americans were hot for pie, didn’t we?

British Pie Week sounds like another convenient flag-waving gimmick. Just there, next to St George’s Day and National Chip Week. That’s right up until you realise, out of all that we eat, pie is one of the few foods least removed from the innermost fabric of UK culture. When it comes proper original British food, rarely do we have a chance to shout about it. Maybe that time is now.