Game pie dishes

Pie covered with ceramic wild game, not pastry

dish cover with pheasants and hare handle Recipes for a good game pie, full of venison, or hare, or pheasant, tell the cook to cover the meat with a pastry pie crust. But ornate game pie dishes like the one in the photo allowed you to make a pie with no crust. There was an inner liner to hold the pie together, while the cover served instead of a pastry lid.

Why? In the late 18th century there was a shortage of wheat in England, prices went up, and flour was expensive for much of the next half-century. Many households tried to economise on flour, some following the lead of the royal household by making pies without pie-crust. (See left-hand column.)

Obviously, poor people had different problems from those whose idea of economy was buying a new pie dish with a decorative ceramic cover, then filling it with an abundance of rich meat. Nevertheless, flour prices remained high, and for about a hundred years special dishes for making pies without pastry were manufactured by Josiah Wedgwood and others, after it was suggested to Wedgwood in 1786. One game pie dish was shown at the Great Exhibition in London in 1851.

The liner and the cover could both be made of pale beige pottery, called caneware because of its colour. The covers were also made in brightly coloured and glazed earthenware (majolica), in the style of 19th-century fish tureens, cheese dishes, and other serving dishes lavishly embellished with shiny models of flora and fauna.

The animals chosen to decorate game pie weren't always strictly game. These ducks look like farmyard creatures, not wild birds. Here the handle is a fox: associated with hunting, but not usually eaten.

The presence of the majolica game pie dish, draped with images of sumptuous game animals, at the dinner table suggested the host and hostess either owned vast tracts of property on which to hunt or had the high connections necessary to legally obtain these much-appreciated delicacies.
Jeffrey B. Snyder, Victorian Views of Nature Revealed in Majolica, c2002
Wedgwood, Josiah, & Sons, Etruria, near Newcastle-under-Lyme - Manufacturers...
Oval game pie, cane colour, ornamented...
Official Descriptive and Illustrated Catalogue: Great Exhibition oOfficial Descriptive and Illustrated Catalogue: Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations, London 1851

1 June 2008

See also:
Tureens and poultry

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