Tarts, Pasties, and other Georgian Delights



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?
(Traditional English Nursery Rhyme)

After all the posts on social media, I expect that most of my readers are aware of International Pi Day, which occurred on March 14 — or 3/14. This annual observance celebrates the mathematical constant of pi. While often abbreviated as 3.14, pi has an infinite number of digits beyond the decimal point, starting with 3.141592653.

Last year’s Pi Day was a special one to celebrate since it was 3/14/15, matching perfectly the first numbers past the decimal point of pi. Last year, hardcore math fans even started celebrating the day at exactly 9:26 a.m. and 53 seconds. This year, math enthusiasts celebrated what they are calling “Rounded Pi Day” since rounding pi to the ten-thousandth (that is four numbers past the decimal point) comes out to 3.1416, matching this year’s date — March 14, 2016.

So, what does all this have to do with the Georgian Era? Certainly, the Georgian Era had its share of mathematicians, but pi was a well-established value long before the Hanoverians came to power in England. Around 150 AD, Greek-Roman scientist Ptolemy, in his Almagest, gave a value for π of 3.1416, which he may have obtained from Archimedes or from Apollonius of Perga (Boyer, 1968). What all this talk of pi did do,however, was to get me thinking of another type of pi – pye or pie – a sweet or savory filling encased in a pastry crust! Continue reading