Reading the bit of blurb on the back cover stating that: "The seventeenth-century ’Mermaid pie’ was a way of flirting with the idea of cannibalism", you wouldn’t be blamed for wondering what sort of book this was. It is in fact an all-encompassing look at the world of pies in all their glorious pastry history.
With lesser-known facts, period photos and recipes, this book is far from just a history lesson on the origin of pies. For example, did you know that early pies often had a crust several inches thick, to preserve the contents for up to a year? Nowadays, the idea of bakers marketing a fresh pie with a shelf-life that long is unimaginable.
Janet Clarkson begins the book by looking at the history of the pie and of pastry-making, before moving on to pie designs and fillings.
She then runs through the different types of pies and their origins, as well as referencing the inclusion of pies in modern-day culture - for example in the comic Desperate Dan with his cow pie, teen movie American Pie, or the human-filled pies in Sweeney Todd. The final sections of the book are dedicated to thoughts on the future of pies, as well as recipes for making your own.
Although the author admits she fell short when attempting to describe what a pie actually is, she falls back on a quote by Raymond Sokolov - "I may not be able to define a pie, but I know one when I see it."