Posted on March 8th, 2016
To celebrate British Pie Week this week, we thought we would recreate a piece of history: the original eel pie, with which the business of pie, mash and liquor began.
This is the first time in at least 40 years, since Roy and I have been running the shop, that eel pie has been on the menu and tried by a select few! We set about delving into our history and imagined ourselves transported back to 1914 when Roy’s Grandparents, William and Emily Arment, would have been baking, in a coal fired oven, a shop lit by gas lamps and saw dust on the floor, selling eel pies for 2d!
Outside horse drawn wagons would have clattered by along cobbled streets, the streets being packed with urchins and people buying goods and food from market stalls. The first pies contained eels because they were plentiful in the river Thames. They were a cheap and very nutritious form of food. Later, as demand grew, eels could be bought at Billingsgate, having been transported from Holland by Dutch eel boats.
Pies were sold by hundreds of pie-men and eels by street sellers who took their wares on braziers and carts, to London’s alehouses, fairs and to the races.
Emergence of the London pie shops
Street trade diminished with the emergence of London’s pie shops, whose owners allegedly enticed customers in with pies that were often larger than those traditionally sold on the street. Eels have a delicate flavour that goes well with mash so cheap potatoes were added as an accompaniment along with a parsley sauce known as liquor, made using the eel juices.
Hence, eel pie and mash became a sit down meal. The pie houses provided a hot, nutritious yet inexpensive food for London’s working classes. With the decline of fresh eels, mutton or inexpensive minced beef started to be used instead as a pie filling. Nowadays beef steak is the most popular pie filling by far. To this day Arment’s are still making 100% pure beef steak pies, using the best quality from Scotland and Ireland.
Free bags & mugs for all!
To celebrate British Pie Week, we are giving away every day this week a FREE reusable food grade hessian bag or Arment’s mug with every purchase in store over £20, whilst stocks last!