Why Eat Apple Pie on the Fourth of July?
For many of us, there's nothing more American than eating a slice of homemade apple pie while watching the fireworks on the Fourth of July. But why is apple pie such an American staple? It turns out apple pie was one of the first desserts to be made in America, and there's a pretty interesting story about why the colonists began baking it.
The country's love of apples is cemented in folktales about John "Johnny Appleseed" Chapman, American War II soldiers heading into battle declaring they were fighting for "mom and apple pie", and the classic Don McLean ode to "American Pie" (the early version of the song included the lyric "Bye Bye Miss American Apple Pie.")
So why exactly is apple such an American emblem?
The First Apple Pie Recipe
One of the strongest pieces of evidence is that recipes for apple pie appear in the very first cookbook published in America. The first edition of Amelia Simmons' "American Cookery" was released in 1796, a little over a decade after the end of the Revolutionary War. Her recipes use dried or cooked apples plus sugar, lemon zest, and rose water.
Apple Pie Origin
Incredibly, apples aren't even native to North America and didn't grow here until the arrival of European settlers. A quick look through history tells us that we may have ignored the historical and cultural influences that have shaped apple pie's place in our country's narrative. Which begs the question: Should we even consider apple pie a national symbol after all?
According to Food52, apple pie originated in England. It arose from culinary influences from France, the Netherlands, and the Ottoman Empire as early as 1390 - centuries before the Pilgrims set foot on Plymouth Rock.
Were Apples an Act of Rebellion?
Some sources say that making apple pie was an act of rebellion on the part of the American colonists. But really, the rebellion was expressed in how these independent early Americans changed their Old World recipes for their new home. The subtitle to Simmons' cookbook sums this up, saying her apple pie recipe and others are "adapted to this country and all grades of life." These changes included a thinner crust – a practical way to make meager supplies of flour last longer but with the side benefit of being lighter and much more delicious than traditional, heavy English crusts. Plus, settlers would also incorporate newfound ingredients like cranberries into apple pies. - According to an article from Mashed.
Whether or not apple pie began as an intentional act of rebellion for early Americans is debatable, but what's certainly true is that the fruity pie quickly grew to become a symbol of national pride. As John Lehndorff of the American Pie Council explained to Food52, "When you say that something is 'as American as apple pie,' what you're really saying is that the item came to this country from elsewhere and was transformed into a distinctly American experience."
While apple pie did not originate in America, over the years it has been fully integrated into American cuisine and is now considered a classic American dish. And indeed, much like America itself, apple pie is a melting pot of many different cultural and culinary traditions. Of course, it’s also just plain old delicious to eat!