Pie Past

Tom Bridge on the heritage of British food

from Pie Society

There are two books every British cook and chef should read in their early years to appreciate what a wonderful food heritage we have in this country. The first is Food in England by Dorothy Hartley, written in 1954, re-published by Little Brown books in 1999; the second, and my all time favourite, is Good Things in England by Florence White, who was the founder of the English Folk Cookery Association. It cost 6 shillings in 1932 and was re-published by Jonathan Cape in 1972, and again in 1999 by Persephone Books. It is from this latter book that I give you the following extract:

Mr John Hatton, Spa Director, The Pump Room, Bath sends the following interesting particulars [to Florence White] supplied by an old Bathonian:

The ‘Pie Man’ stood on the Boro’ Walls, between Cater’s and Ship and Teagles, close to the pavement by Cater’s. He had a brightly polished case of stout tin standing on 4 legs and fitted with three drawers. In one he kept meat pies, the other mince pies, the third had a small charcoal fire arrangement which kept the pies hot. He announced his presence by fairly quietly repeating quickly, ‘All ’ot all ’ot all ’ot’ about five times very rapidly. (Try it and you get the effect). He sold them at the recognized price of the day – one penny each.

But with boys, who tossed with him (halfpennies) or with men who tossed (pennies); if they lost he took the money, if they won they had a pie. I think the meat pies were 2d. As the men generally took meat pies, but if they did not choose they had mince pies. But, as I have said, you could also buy.

He disappeared, I think about 1893. I remember him in 1880. As I told Mr. Taylor, he bought stale pies from Fisher’s. By stale is meant pies more than a day old. I do not think confectioners are so particular today (1932), but in my youth all confectionery was half price the day after the buns, tarts and pies were made?

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