Goodbye, meat pie. These are words I’d dread to whisper. But when I opened The Sydney Morning Herald today, there it was, news I suppose I always expected would come. After 10 years of growing sales, the popularity of the Australian meat pie has waned by 10 per cent.
If your reaction to this is “Big deal”, you probably don’t get it. The cold truth of it is that for a long time - before there was Bill Granger and Neil Perry - the international culinary scoresheet read as follows: England: the Sunday roast; France: the croissant; America: the hamburger; and then, admittedly around the bottom of the chalkboard, Australia: the meat pie.
To give you an idea of this savoury treat’s importance: when the iconic Holden car company tried to devise a jingle that encapsulated the Australian psyche in a 1976 advert, the lyrics went, "Football, meat pies, kangaroos and Holden cars," over and over again. So, yes - big deal indeed.
Snack pundits have put the pie’s decline down to a mixture of workers packing their own lunches and a change in culinary fashion. I can’t help but feel that snobbery is the real culprit. Don’t these fancy pants know that a great meat pie personifies all the things that make Oz great? Just like the country itself, it’s faintly like something British but less stiff around the edges. Unlike the oppressive linings of a pommy pie, our crusts are wild and free like the rolling red dunes of the Kimberly.
It’s also egalitarian. From the dustiest worker to the most suited CEO, one needn’t venture further than a local petrol station to partake. And, most importantly, the pie is no show-off. Unlike the roast - or “boast”, as I call it - promiscuously splayed across the plate for all to see, the humble meat pie hides its contents. Like Hugh Jackman’s stoic drover in Baz Luhrmann's Australia, the meat pie trades on an unspoken reliability rather than razzle dazzle.
Oh, pie. Perhaps it was your temperature that lost you favour: always served as hot as a corrugated tin sheet in a bushfire with nothing but a thin white paper bag to prevent your lava-hot insides falling onto the forearms of an eater. Then again, I’d rather that than endure the indignity of having to eat you with a knife and fork. Unless, of course, you’re served in the form of a pie floater – which is, for the uninitiated, a pie served floating in a bowl of thick pea soup.
So, if you somehow disappear before I’m able to taste you again – goodbye, meat pie. We had some memories.
Adrian Craddock is Monocle’s associate business editor.