Oh, those Brits

My friend Neil McIntosh says he was inspired by my wonder at the British institution of the Pukka Pie (why’d anyone one to puke a pie, I asked) to explain the ritual on his blog as he did for me on my visit to London last week:

When served in a crinkly plastic bag, the top may appear cool, while the foil tray in which they rest is quite warm. Nothing, however, indicates the extraordinary heat in the centre of the pie. N00b pie eaters will dive straight in, and risk serious burns to tongue, lips and even face as the pie contents spill out. Seasoned supporters view this as something of a test; the “serious” fan would not make such a schoolboy error.

The pragmatic pie eater, therefore, may choose to wait 15-20 minutes before consuming the product, knowing that it is piping hot throughout despite its cool exterior. This waiting time is known, at least round seat M108 of the Don Rogers Stand, Swindon, as the “half life” of the Pukka pie. The pie should then be debagged and, by means of gripping the edges of the foil tray while using the index finger to push the bottom of said tray, the pie raised out its container. This allows a safer approach to the snack, all the while ensuring no gravy spills down your front.

I think he’s taking me for a N00b. Surely one can’t eat a piping-hot gravy-and-grease-filled pie as if it were something truly sensible like a hot dog. I’m betting he’s trying to trap me. I have demanded a demonstration.

I am reminded of one of my favorite Calvin Trillin pieces in The New Yorker in which he attended an oyster festival at a bayou firehouse. The firefighters tried to rile N00b oyster-haters by convincing them that REAL men preferred to consume the bivalves by sucking them up their noses. This, Trillin said, made just as much sense to an oyster-fearer as eating them in the mouth.

Neil also points us to Pukka Pie posters, which can be purchased for two quid each (that’s about $300 for us). What’s particularly striking is how they try to make the Pukka Pie into a sexual symbol. But then again, they do produce foodstuffs named after an article of stripper’s clothing.

Odd, those Brits.

  • I actually used to have a copy of that Pukka Pies ad on my wall at home – I’d begged a copy, drunkenly, from a chip shop one night :)

  • Pukka’s are really a London and environs thing, not “Brit” as such. Different parts of the country have their own pie makers and traditional recipes. And anyone who eats a Pukka pastie should be shot: they’re disgusting. Proper pasties come from Cornwall (see above, regional variations).

  • Jeff – we’ll get you to a football stadium to try a Pukka soon, have no fear. And Tim – I can promise you the Pukka Pie is now a truly national thing, despite the local recipes you’re right to point out. They have a stranglehold – if that’s the word – on football grounds. As for mass produced pasties, I do like a Ginsters. But that’s maybe another blog post.

  • Next week…jellied eels.

  • Warren Harrison

    I once checked into a 5* hotel in Bangkok to find in the resturaunt that it was ‘English Pie Week’.

  • Hmmm. Not wanting to cause trouble in response to a humerous remark, but…

    From the 13th century:

    “A 13th century charter was granted by Henry III (1207–1272) to the town of Great Yarmouth. The town is bound to send to the sheriffs of Norwich every year one hundred herrings, baked in twenty four pasties, which the sheriffs are to deliver to the lord of the manor of East Carlton who is then to convey them to the King.”

    Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pasty

    The Yanks, on the other hand, have towns named after women’s naughty bits:


    While us Brits have more inventive versions such as: “Lord Hereford’s Knob”.


    If you live on Pukka Pies at football matches you will end up as large as Mr Usmanov.

  • @biblinski

    “…two quid each (that’s about $300 for us).”

    I know the dollar has been taking big hits against other currencies, but I don’t think it’s quite that bad yet. Is there a missing decimal point there, maybe?

  • IT’S A JOKE. Jeesh. You must not be British. No sense of irony.

  • Pingback: Wordblog » Blog Archive » A pukka start to silly season()

  • Pukka pies are most definitely not pukka. (That’s Hindi for top class or superior, a legacy of the Raj).

    As for the puntastic pasties reference, Cornish people actually pronounce Pasty as “spare a fag me luvver?” or “McDonalds” when hungry.