"Good apple pies are a considerable part of our domestic happiness."
-Jane Austen in a letter to her sister Cassandra, 17 October 1815
March 14th is Pi Day -- as in 3.14 -- which naturally led us to start thinking about actual, edible pie. Here at the Grammarly offices, it's no secret that we're word nerds, but we're also big fans of baked goods. Here are five of our favorite famous fictional pies.
Four and Twenty Blackbirds
One of the most enduring nursery rhymes, "Sing of Song of Sixpence" includes the disturbing image of twenty-four blackbirds baked into a pie. In Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, live birds were sometimes served in pies to the aristocracy as a novelty, but nursery rhyme expert Chris Roberts has a different theory.
According to Roberts, it's all about Henry VIII and his first two wives, Catherine of Aragon and Ann Boleyn. "[T]he second queen, who Henry divorced and then executed," says Roberts, "has her nose snipped off by the blackbirds, which here apparently represent the church."
Revenge is a dish best served cold. Especially if that revenge involves murdering the sons of the woman who destroyed your life and serving them to her in a pie. Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus is a bloody spectacle, but the scene in Act 5, Scene 3 is one of the goriest things the Bard ever wrote:
Why, there they are, both baked in this pie;
Whereof their mother daintily hath fed,
Eating the flesh that she herself hath bred.
'Tis true, 'tis true, witness my knive's sharp point.
Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
The character Sweeney Todd existed long before Johnny Depp or even Steven Sondheim's 1979 musical. The demon barber of Fleet Street first appeared in a series of penny dreadfuls--cheap, salacious stories--from 1846-47. The "String of Pearls" stories about the murderous barber and his neighbor, Mrs. Lovett, who bake their victims into pies, may have been inspired by real historical figures, but some scholars argue that the character was inspired by a Dickens novel. In Martin Chuzzlewit, Tom Pinch feels lucky that his own "evil genius did not lead him into the dens of any of those preparers of cannibalic pastry, who are represented in many country legends as doing a lively retail business in the metropolis."
The moral of the story: if you find yourself in Victorian London, stick with the vegetarian option.
Apple Pies in On the Road
Jack Kerouac seemed to have a thing for apple pies. Throughout his iconic book On the Road, he eats slice after slice of the classic American dessert: "I ate another apple pie and ice cream; that's practically all I ate all the way across the country, I knew it was nutritious."Journalist Anneli Rufus has a lovely rundown of Kerouac's food obsession here.
Pumpkin Pasties from Harry Potter
Harry samples his first pumpkin pasties on the Hogwarts Express in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, when he gallantly (and a trifle gluttonously) buys a bit of everything on the snack trolley to share with his new friend Ron. While not quite as fanciful as chocolate frogs or Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans, pumpkin pasties have been recreated in Muggle kitchens ever since. A pasty (pronounced "pass-tea") is a traditional Cornish hand pie that consists of either savory or sweet filling wrapped in a buttery shortcrust pastry. To make your very own pumpkin pasties, check out this awesome recipe!
What's your favorite fictional pastry? Share yours in the comments; bonus points for recipes!
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