A Tale of Two Pies…


It was the very best of pies: it was the very worst of pies.Veal and ham pie, best described as a long raised meat pie with a row of hard boiled eggs running through the middle, is part and parcel of my faded memories of summer picnics in the England of my childhood. The true fascination of this confection, to a boy, was the appearance of a perfect section of a hard boiled egg, chrome yellow heart with a pure white halo, in the centre of each slice. Such a slice was the ideal slice but, owing to the contrary nature of eggs, this golden orb waxes and wanes as the knife proceeds along its length. Hating egg white, as I always have, the mystery of how an egg could successfully be inserted, undamaged, into an already cooked pie was of less interest to me than the possibility of being the unfortunate recipient of a yolkless slice. A slice studded with a perfect oval of solid egg white, like the boiled eye of a very big fish, was my nemesis, my personal short straw. In that era the utterance of the phrase “I don’t like that”, particularly by a child, fell on deaf ears and was thus little used. Being sick at a  picnic was not encouraged as one was there to enjoy oneself and not to be sick. No Geneva Convention covered such behaviour, so when an abysmal moment, such as the egg white horror, was upon me there was nothing for it but to swallow and call upon those inner resources,  thankfully gifted to pupils of boarding schools, that could efficiently subdue the retching impulse. At those moments the jelly around the pie, which had previously seemed quite benign, became very much more threatening. I think I always expected too much of veal, ham and egg pie. My father, on the other hand, although happy with the pie, found the same problem with my good self.

Meanwhile, in Lyon, pie makers had not troubled themselves with the mystery of egg insertion. Foie gras had been their choice of stuffing which they surrounded with duck and truffles. This sensible combination of fine ingredients fitted neatly into a golden crust, the top surface of  which was pierced with a row of small holes, through which the intense stock, created in cooking the duck, was poured and which would set into a toothsome jelly. Inexplicably, I very much enjoy quails’ eggs in jelly, the egg white of which doesn’t offend me in the least. No question but that I had gone to far better place.



About Food,Photography & France

Photographer and film maker living in France. After a long career in London, my wife and I have settled in the Vendee, where we run residential digital photography courses with a strong gastronomic flavour.
This entry was posted in 2015, Art photography, Cuisine bourgeoise, Digital photography, Duck, Eggs, Excellence, Foie Gras, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, Hard boiled eggs, Humour, Meat, Photography, photography course, Pie, Quail eggs, Truffles, Uncategorized, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

48 Responses to A Tale of Two Pies…

  1. Mad Dog says:

    That is a beautiful looking pie! I didn’t taste a decent pie (or sausages) until I was a grown up – both of my parents are culinarily challenged, so I discovered really good food in other peoples’ homes as a teenager onwards. I did, however, have a belief that there were excellent pies and sausages out there somewhere – something to do with Desperate Dan perhaps. I commiserate over the egg white (though I don’t completely loath it), but it’s cold jelly that I really detest and oddly I have no objection to it in liquid form, as stock or dissolved in gravy. Jelly, of course, provides a protective seal for the meat and keeps the air out, so in times long past it was absolutely essential 🙂

  2. Love it. Great post and the picture is nothing to sneeze at either.

  3. Sally says:

    Only you could write a Reader’s Digest Dickens on pies.

  4. Francesca says:

    I enjoyed both parts of this story: the terribly English, stiff upper lip, boarding school first part, and its counterpart, the French, decadent,but pragmatic second. Superb writing, a breakfast treat for me,

  5. Very sensible combination indeed. That looks like a textbook pie to me – what a beauty!

  6. platedujour says:

    They know in Lyon what’s good in life!

  7. ardysez says:

    Great photo and post. Love the line about your father… 🙂

  8. Michelle says:

    Can’t top Sally’s comment. (Yes, and I’ll have the French version, please.)

  9. I am with you- I like an egg yolk, all that white mess can stay far away from me.

    • It’s strange, the dislike of egg white. I love omelettes and scrambled eggs but if I eat a boiled egg, I’ll leave the white. I have arrived at the point when I can eat the white of a fried egg…as long as I cooked it myself:)

  10. Eha says:

    Am utterly boring I realize but can’t top Sally’s and then Michelle’s’ 😀 !! If we have to make it a ‘Tale of Two Cities’ I’ll pick Paris this time also, in spite of the fact my heart will always be found in London!!! [oops, love egg whites!!]

  11. cecilia says:

    I am seriously considering growing quails next year for their eggs, I LOVE quails eggs too. c

  12. Pate en Croute- Very nice not seen often in this country anymore!

  13. catterel says:

    Oh what a lovely pie! And long repressed memories return …

  14. Flora says:

    That photograph is simply gorgeous , Roger!

  15. I am very much looking forward to fois gras-ing myself into a stupor, Roger. It just isn’t the same here.

    • It’s a very good plan to do…once in a while. I remember a book title from years ago with the promising. prurient title “Every Frenchman has one” ( depending on your gender or proclivity it could me mistress or penis, or many other things I guess) but in fact it related to the regular crises de foie suffered by Frenchmen from their over indulgence in culinary extravagance…..I think foie gras may well be included in the list those surfeits:)

  16. Sharon says:

    It was the jelly I couldn’t stomach – revolting! Probably helped to turn me vegetarian (although am a carnivore cook!)

  17. Beautifully Dickensian Roger. I like both egg white and jelly but I’d certainly prefer the Lyonnais pie than ours! I had a client who was a “food” company (I use the word food loosely) and I remember being horrified finding out in one of their factories that the eggs used in shop pies bear very little relation to real eggs after the process they’ve been through to ensure they produce sausage like pre fabricated eggs about a metre long with “yolk” running all the way through. 😦

  18. cheergerm says:

    Ah, what a photo. Snap! I will never forget when, as a child, I was presented with what I thought was a perfectly delicious looking meat rissole, only to cut it open and discover the horror of a Scotch Egg. Still can’t look at them, or any whole eggy thing in a pie etc. I love eggs but hate runny white or yolk and cold jelly. It’s a texture thing for sure.

  19. Good looking pie there my friend. I like pie. My mum would put boiled eggs in her meatloaf… thats nice, isn’t it… 🙂

  20. Karen says:

    Life has had lots of bumps in the road for me lately, but it has been a pleasure stopping by and catching up on all your posts. Wish I had a slice of your beautiful “meat pie”, it must have been delicious.

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