Who ate all the pies? Well it wasn’t me, not all of them, but I did my best when I was in England. At the Founder’s Arms on the Thames, within site of St Paul’s and the Tate Modern, I went for Founder's Ploughman's Board. It looked like this.
“Cropwell stilton, mature cheddar cheese, ham hock terrine, caramelized onions, gammon ham, hand raised pork pie, branston pickle, sourdough, gherkins,” it said on the menu, and it was all true.
Then I went to the Puckeridge Point to Point at Horseheath in Essex (yes, really),
where I had a couple of pies from the stall belonging to The Cheese and Pie Man. They have a motto: “A pie is for Christmas not for life and a pie a day makes the day go quicker.”
The one on the left is duck and orange, and the one on the right is – wait for it - pork and black pudding. Have mercy, Mr. Pie Man.
Pies have been on my mind partly because I’ve been reading Alexander Theroux’s forthcoming book Einstein’s Beets: An Examination of Food Phobias – 800 or so pages, exploding with the curiosities of gastronomy and it contains this description of Dr. Johnson’s eating style,
“Whenever he was so fortunate as to have near him a hare that had been kept too long, or a meat pie made with rancid butter, he gorged himself with such violence that his veins swelled and the moisture broke out on his forehead.” No sign of this below:
Theroux quotes this from the Encyclopedia Britannica. I think it’s originally from Macaulay’s Life of Johnson, but I don’t know where he got the information, not by observation, since he wasn’t born until some years after Johnson’s death.
Boswell doesn’t appear to be the source, though he does report Johnson as saying, “I generally have a meat pie on Sunday: it is baked at a public oven, which is very properly allowed, because one man can attend it; and thus the advantage is obtained of not keeping servants from church to dress dinners,”
And then, in Manningtree, at a restaurant named Lucca, in fact on a Sunday, I had this calzone:
I think a calzone is a pie by any other name. True it’s made with pizza dough rather than pastry, but then again pizzas are sometimes called pies which has always seemed misleading to me, and in any case the end result is still an edible container for whatever filling the chef decides on. This was a Calzone di Mare:
“Tomato, fior di latte mozzarella, calamari, clams, prawns, mussels, garlic, chill,” it says on the menu.
Boswell tells us that Johnson always ate fish with his fingers, “because I am short-sighted and afraid of bones.”I think he’d have been OK with the boneless Calzone de Mare. I think his veins would have been standing right out, I think the moisture would have been on his forehead.