Lock up your pies!

Hello, friends. I know I said I’d blog this week about the editorial process. But that was before we popped into Barriefield Antiques and I encountered my first-ever pie safe. Yes, that’s right: a circa 1850 pie safe. It’s just what you think it is: a secure cupboard in which to store your wealth of cooling pies, away from flies and grubby fingers.

1850s pie safe

This one is made of maple. The patterned inset panels on the doors are made of tin, and they’re as rusty as the photo suggests. And in the photo below, you can see a pattern of rings showing where hot pies were set down, some 150 years ago.

pie safe interior

I had no intention of buying this myself, but it delighted me to know that pie safes were, at some point, a recognizable item of kitchen furniture. And when I thought about it, I realized that I’ve seen the pie safe in a variant form.

Wikipedia points out that pie safes are also called kitchen safes or meat safes. When I visited Malaysia and Singapore a few years ago, I saw a couple of period kitchens which included food safes. They were frequently used to store meat (between its morning purchase at the market and the cooking of the day’s main meal), with one extra refinement for the tropics: each leg stood in a wide dish of water, to discourage cockroaches and other vermin. I’ve also seen a photo of a food safe designed to hang from the ceiling – although one would still have to deal with insects descending from above.

In any case, the pie safe/food safe is a brilliant reminder of how hard people used to work to keep food edible. It makes me look at my fridge (a basic Sears model, not at all special) with new appreciation for what a sophisticated bit of technology it is.

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3 Responses to “Lock up your pies!”

  1. Leanne says:

    I can’t say I’ve ever heard of a pie safe before, but I finished “Death and the Maidens” last night. I had no idea Shelley was so reprehensible.

  2. pogo says:

    Those inserts……are tin? I thought they were wood! Shows how rusty they got, wow. And now I have a new appreciation for all my grandmother’s kitchen appliances and furniture, and how everything had a purpose – none of this ‘buy an ice cream machine on a whim and forget about it’ business (apparently there also used to be specialised ovens for tea-cakes? I adore teacakes, and never knew that).

  3. Ying says:

    Leanne, Janet Todd does seem to have a particular disdain for Shelley and she’s much nastier about him than some other critics . But there’s no getting around his single-minded self-regard. As I read about him, I kept thinking, “He was so young. That’s precisely the behaviour you’d expect of an over-indulged 24-year-old.” Pogo, yes, absolutely! (I have an ice-cream maker…) Can you tell me more about the special ovens for tea-cakes? That sounds delightful.

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