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Lancashire Pork Pie Appreciation Society

Appreciating the best best pork pies Lancashire has to offer

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National Butchers Week

Every week it seems is ‘something week’ these days. Last week was national pie week, which started well, but ended in ignominy. Somehow, the ‘expert’ judges at the Pie Awards chose a Ginsters pasty as the second best pasty in Britain, and crowned a peppered steak pie as second best Meat & Potato Pie. This week is now National Butcher’s Week. In this case, we at the LPPAS definitely agree that this is a worthy cause.

Butchers are highly skilled, expert craftspeople. First and foremost of course is their skill in cutting and trimming meat. They are almost all, small & family run businesses. In today’s times where large supermarkets dominate, any such business has to provide an excellent product and service in order to survive. It is to the great credit of the many high quality local butchers in Lancashire that they do just that. We all owe such businesses our support, and so we are happy to celebrate National Butchers Week.

We are happy too for another particular reason. That is, that so many of these expert butchers also happen to make the best pork pies in the county. In our search for the best pork pies in Lancashire it has been our pleasure to find small, family run, butchers that apply the same skills and attention to detail from their normal work into the additional job of producing excellent pies. Indeed, every town seems to have a butcher with the reputation of producing the best pies in the country. We are enjoying identifying as many of these butchers as possible this year, and taking even more pleasure in sampling their wares. If we can do our little bit to promote these often unsung heroes we are very happy to do so.

LPPAS Comment – British Pie Awards 2017

The winners of the 2017  British Pie Awards were announced on Friday 10th March as the culmination of British Pie Week. The Awards seem to have grown in stature in recent years. Many hundreds of pies were entered into the Awards which no doubt take a considerable amount of time and effort to run as efficiently as they do. There is also, no doubt, that the Pie Week and Awards generate a great deal of much needed publicity for pies and pie makers. The LPPAS recognise this and congratulate the organisers on their work and effort in putting the Awards together.

Regular readers will know though that we think there are aspects of the Awards that leave room for improvement. Straight talking is a Lancastrian trait, and in raising these issues it is in the hope that the Awards can be improved for the better. There are two main issues that are of concern to us. These are detailed below:

M&Pwinners2

 Firstly, there is the issue that we raised pre-Awards with respect to the regional imbalance of the judges, and in particular the preponderance of judges from Melton Mowbray and its surroundings. Looking at the results it would appear that the problem is deeper than just the judges. There was also a regional imbalance in the pies that were submitted for the Awards. We repeat, that we cast absolutely no aspersions on the integrity of the judges or the overall process which includes blind tasting. Our point is that people from different regions have different expectations of how pies should taste and look. This is bound to affect judgement and will favour those pies that are in line with the subconscious expectations of the judges. There can be no better illustration of this than the Awards in the Meat & Potato Pie category. The Meat & Potato Pie is pretty much the default pie throughout Lancashire. It is a straightforward, honest pie. Consisting mainly of potato, with differing quantities of meat. It is therefore unthinkable to anyone from Lancashire that the second and third prizes in the Meat & Potato pie category went to ‘peppered steak’ and ‘beef stew’ pies respectively. These are simply not Meat & Potato pies. How could judges and organisers overlook this? We can only assume that they do not have experience of what actual Meat & Potato pies look and taste like. Sadly, there were some real Meat & Potato pies from Lancashire entered in this category. To be ranked below pies that shouldn’t even be anywhere near the category must be a real kick in the teeth for these high quality and much loved pie makers.

 Next is the judging process itself. The organisers stress the rigour with which the judging is done. Seemingly all judges award (or deduct) marks against a series of criteria. There are clearly issues with this approach that is exacerbated by the large numbers of pies to be sampled by a limited number of judges. In scientific terms the process of awarding and then totalling marks against a set of pre-defined criteria would be characterised as reliable but not valid. The process is reliable in that different judges are likely to award Pies similar scores. It is not valid though, as these scores, although consistent, do not necessarily reflect the overall quality of the pie. There are many reasons for this. In part the problem is due to the difficulty of weighting different criteria, in part it is due to the fact that the criteria themselves are not necessarily correct, and thirdly it is due to the false assumption that a pie (or anything else for that matter) is merely an arithmetic sum of its constituent parts. In most cases it is how elements combine rather than how they rank individually that provides the overall experience. This explanation may seem long winded, but a system that ranks a Ginsters pasty (yes Ginsters) as runner up in the pasty category cannot possibly be defended. How must it feel to be a passionate local producer of high quality pasties to wake up to the news that your pride and joy is ranked below Ginsters?

 Again, we emphasise that we hope that these comments are seen as constructive. In the first instance we ask merely that the organisers reflect upon them. In an ideal world we would prefer it if the Awards moved around the country. Failing that it may be that the organisers might work more closely with regional groups and organisations (as they do with e.g. Scottish Butchers) in order to bring more judges into the fold and so encouraging a wider spread of entrants. This would help with the judging too, but here we would also ask that methods that include an overall mark and perhaps involve the general public be explored.

British Pie Awards 2017

The British Pie Awards 2017 are coming up on the 8th March. It is great that Pies will hit the headlines and there are 100s of pies entered into the various categories. We hope that the event is a great success. We particularly hope that Lancashire Pies bring home their fair share of awards.

However, we at the LPPAS are concerned about the make up of the judging panel. There is a heavy Melton Mowbray/East Midlands/Southern bias to the panel. Unless this issue is redressed it puts Northern Pies at a disadvantage. We have raised this issue in an open letter to the organisers of the British Pie Awards. Let’s hope that they take steps to address this important issue. Read our open letter here pieawardsletter

When is a pie not a pie?

img_1019It doesn’t do to focus too much on the negative in this world, especially as simple pleasures are easy to find. For example, it is hard to imagine feeling more content than when eating a pork pie washed down with a good pint. However, as the the saying goes ‘For evil to triumph it is only necessary that good men do nothing’. So, pie lovers should not stand idly by while their traditional pleasure and heritage is trampled on with the spread of expensive and exotic pies. Pictured opposite are two websites promoting pies and ‘ale’ in the so called ‘Northern Quarter’ of Manchester. Do not be tempted by this marketing nonsense. It is the same eveil thinking that for some reason has seen beer renamed as ale. It is an appeal to the feeble minded, intended to make them think that such products are worth much more than normal beer and pies. The simple truth is that they taste worse and cost more. All pie lovers should strongly discourage this disturbing trend.

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