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The UK Is Criminally Serious About the Definition of Pie

Careful with your casseroles: thousands of people in the UK are currently signing a petition that aims to make the misclassification of pie a criminal offense.
Hilary Pollack
Los Angeles, US

What is a pie to you?

In a fairly basic sense, most would think of some sort of round, flaky, pastry crust that envelops and contains a filling comprised of anything from canned cherries to cubed chicken. Maybe, after a little bit of further thought, you would include pies that don't even have a "top crust," such as pumpkin or lemon meringue—which leaves the roundness, then, and the chewy bottom crust and rim as the defining characteristics of such a dish. There are endless types of pies to be had, but they presumably all share this attribute.


Were you to isolate the fillings alone and plop them in a plate in a non-sliceable format, they would cease to be pie and be reborn as casserole or cobbler. This is very serious.

Or at least the Brits certainly think so.

Thousands of people in the UK are currently signing a petition that aims to make the misclassification of pie a criminal offense—namely, usage of the term when referring to a "casserole with a pastry lid." "For too long," the petition states, "customers in pubs and restaurants have ordered what is described on the menu as a pie, only to be served with casserole in a pot covered by a puff pastry lid. This is not a pie and is also curiously difficult to consume." (Some would recommend usage of a fork, but maybe things are a little messier without the presence of a bottom crust to hold together all of the components.)

Bill T. Wulf, the creator of the petition, wants the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs to enforce that restaurants adhere to the Oxford English Dictionary definition of "pie" in their menu descriptions. The OED describes a pie as "a baked dish of fruit, or meat and vegetables, typically with a top and base of pastry." The deceptive dishes that he describes in the petition may have a top of pastry, but they are frustratingly baseless. Shepherd's pie, as well as cottage pie and fish pies, are excused for tradition's sake.

Restaurants that fail to comply with the new, astringent definition of piedom would be subject to "the implementation of criminal sanctions." More than 3,500 people have signed the petition as of press time.

England has a long and illustrious culinary tradition in pies, with meat pies being a mainstay of British cuisine since the 12th century AD. Interestingly and morbidly, the crust used to comprise much more of the pie and be referred to as the "coffyn." One of the most archetypal British pies is the pork pie, which is, in all fairness, entirely encased with crust.

British restaurateurs, beware: a pie by any other name may smell like outrage.