Thursday Focus on Vintage and Antique: Pie Birds

Sing a song of sixpence,
A pocket full of rye,
Four and twenty blackbirds
Baked in a pie.

When the pie was opened
The birds began to sing—
Wasn't that a dainty dish
To set before the king?

The king was in the counting-house
Counting out his money,
The queen was in the parlor
Eating bread and honey,

The maid was in the garden
Hanging out the clothes.
Along came a blackbird
And snipped off her nose.

History isn't clear as to whether this old rhyme we learned as children was the inspiration for "Pie Birds" ( also called pie funnels, pie ventilators, pie cups, or pie chimneys) or whether pie birds were the inspiration for the poem.  What we do know is that the concept of creating a funnel to allow the steam to escape from meat pies and to help hold up the upper crust, is older than the production of pie birds.  An un-named baker in King George III's kitchen is credited with creating a funnel or vent to keep the steam from meat pies from making the crust soggy by propping it up away from the crust.  The vents kept the pies from bubbling out around the edges and created a crispier crust.  (Evidently King George complained a lot about soggy crusts.)    We know that pie funnels have been in existence since the 1800's but pie birds as we know them today became popular in the 1930's and beyond.  

I recently used my vintage pie bird to make a fruit pie.  I wasn't sure what to expect but was delighted with the results.  The crust was indeed less soggy and browned so well.  And, let's not forget the real reason to use a pie bird is because it's adorable!

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