Whilst at St. Martins yesterday I was discussing pies with a group of students. We've all got pies somewhere on our radar when it comes to food preferences. For me, they're about mid way up (or down) on that list. For others they're closer to the top, and for some they're very close to the bottom. As I'm from the North I sort of grew up with them. Not in a literal sense of course - I have no experience of sharing emotional memories of childhood with a crustcovered meat product.
Anyway - enough of that.
When I was discussing the humble pie with the students (who were all from foreign shores) it made me think how much we take for granted in normal day to day humdrum stuff.
The project I set them involved them visiting a pie house. This was for a few reasons but mostly because I thought they would learn something from it. You see, as far as I knew, the students had never tried a pie before. So for students from Taiwan, Korea, USA and France (to name a few), the experience of going into a pie room was completely new to them.
They embraced the experience. They bought a pint of bitter from the bar downstairs, had a pie, and ordered some Spotted Dick. They didn't even have a clue what Spotted Dick consisted of, but they ordered it and liked it... although they'd also never heard of the term 'pudding' instead of 'dessert.' (And were positvely confused when I told them I called it 'afters.')
So why do I write this? Well, for many reasons but firstly because pies and pasties are products that have been refined over years and really are a perfect type of product. The students were enthralled when I told them why pasties had a large crust, and that there are many different types of pies. Of course it goes both ways - now when people buy their branded pasty at the train station after a few pints - they don't want a crust. The experience has followed a new reality. Working down the mine has been replaced by eating on the train, so people want a product that they can eat quickly, quietly, that doesn't smell much and that won't drop too much on their workshirt.
Is that evolution? Is that progress? I don't know - but I'll tell you one thing - chatting to people who aren't used to your customs is so interesting. It's something I've never really thought of. I had to explain aspects of a foodstuff that I'd taken for granted all my life, and it made me analyse it in a way I'd never looked at it.
So maybe there should be a course called "Talk about normal stuff to people who don't know what your normal is." I'd sign up to it.