I’ve seen a lot of nice things to eat in Poland, but none of them were pies. The more I think about this the odder it seems. You may wonder why would I spend any time at all thinking about this, but then you don’t know me. Let me get one thing straight from the very beginning: this is not a rant, complaint, criticism, or belittlement – I’m genuinely mystified as to the absence of Polish pies. The pie is one of the simplest, most ancient, and most convenient forms of food preparation. I don’t understand how it never caught on here. Or did it and I’m just not seeing them?
A pork pie. Pastry on the outside, mechanically reclaimed pig meat and mysterious jelly on the inside. Mmm…
The essence of the pie concept is the containment of sloppy, hard to handle food in a firm, crusty, edible package called pastry. Pastry is just flour, water, and a little fat rolled flat and baked. Even the fat is optional. Pies can contain just about anything. The idiomatic mom’s apple pie, the standard by which Americanness is measured, is a classic sweet version; the steak and kidney pie, a British pub staple, is a classic savoury version.
Apple pie. As American as being the butt of cheap bombing jokes
A steak and kidney pie in its natural habitat.
If you’re mentally putting together the elements of a flour and water casing around a sweet or savoury filling and coming up with the answer “pierogi,” don’t worry I’m way ahead of you. Clearly there are similarities, but there are also crucial differences. Crucial difference number one is that pierogies are boiled, not baked, and crucial difference number two is that pierogies are individual bite-sized items served in a group while a pie is a single big item from which slices are taken. Both of these have a bearing on the convenience and longevity of pierogi as compared to pies – pierogi are wet and sloppy and don’t keep.
As if this post wasn’t exciting enough already, I have more. As part of my customarily extensive research on such things I happened across a Ukrainian dish called “pyrih” that looks suspiciously like a pie. Even more interestingly, as if that were possible, the Russian word for this Ukrainian dish is apparently “pirog,” and the Polish word is “pieróg.” Seems there is more to this than meets the eye. Polandian readers will undoubtedly be able to enlighten me further.
A pyrih, apparently. Looks like a pie and lives just across the border in Ukraine.