Amelia Simmons’ Apple Pie – Historical Context
Dating to as early as 1381, forms of apple pie have existed in England. However, at points that early, sugar was a very expensive luxury, and as such most pies served more as containers for food, rather than pastries to eat. It was only after sugar became more available in the 16th century that pies were made to be eaten in their entirety. Throughout this time, however, apples were known to be used in pies, as the fruit was readily available in Europe.
Apple pie made its way to America in early colonial times with the first English settlers. These settlers arrived in the New World unfamiliar with the land and the indigenous people. Early colonial times were very difficult and one of the issues was the colonists’ unfamiliarity with edible plants native to America. Because the colonists were wary of the indigenous people and did not trust them, they were wary of the foods that they ate. Eventually, what the English settlers decided to do instead of eating unfamiliar food was to bring to the New World fruits and vegetables from the motherland of which they could plant the seeds and grow their own food. Among the plants that the colonists brought was the apple seed. Interestingly enough, there was a type of apple native to America: the crab apple! These apples are sour and distasteful, unfit for apple pie. By the time the apple trees matured enough to bear fruit, which was about ten years after the colonists planted the tree seeds, the colonists were well established in the New World. That year, the colonists celebrated the bountiful harvest of the apples as well as the fruits of their labor in establishing themselves in the New World by baking apple pies.