In the words of the the mighty Monty Pythons: what did the Romans ever do for us? Roads? They just created congestion. Central heating? It’s over-used and has made us soft. Aqueducts? Hardly needed when there’s bottled water. Pies? What do you mean you didn’t know the Romans brought us pies?
It may have been the ancient Greeks who first demonstrated that gently rubbing a little Lurpak into the Homepride before mixing with water created a product that could be rolled out, wrapped around something filling and then baked. But as everybody who’s ever been to Greece will tell you, their fayre’s nothing in comparison to that developed in Italy. And so it was the Romans who took this idea and brought to us needy Brits their sweet and savoury delicacies wrapped in short and flaky packages and smothered with gravy or custard. Thus, 2,000 years ago, the British love affair with the pie began.
And because of the Romans thoughtfully invading us, today (March 8th 2014) is a very important day; more important than most other days and you probably don’t even know it. Today is the penultimate day of British Pie Week. And if there’s any type of food that we British are known for and good at, it’s pies.
We’ve fought wars on pies, built the industrial revolution with pie in hand, fed ourselves during recessions and made the Gregg family rich. The word’s even embedded itself in our language: during maths lessons at school, you weren’t taught about hamburger or hotdog charts but the world’s first pie chart was published in 1801. And whilst there’s a myriad, both sweet and savoury, of pie fillings, when multiplied by the different types of pastry the combinations become almost countless.
So, here’s to the first Romans who burst onto our soil; them and their boss, Emperor Claudius. I think we owe that chap a vote of thanks.
Previously published in The Northern Echo