Wales: Welsh Pies

In searching for cool causes in Wales, we discovered Peter’s Pies, a staple pie baker from Caerphilly, just outside Cardiff.  They have a strong social aspect to their business helping schools and the local community. They even have their own pie-eating contest to raise money for their local George Thomas Hospice.

Because, what is Wales without Welsh Pies? You’ve got the Tartest Planc, the Welsh Cranberry Pie, the Leek Pie, the Cookie Pie, the Limpet Pie, the Welsh Lamb Pie, and of course, the Rabbit Pie. And don’t forget the Clark Pie, originally made by Mary Clark in 1913, a staple from Cardiff.

Pies actually became a thing in the 17th and 18th century when the Cornish working class miners realized that these pies were great for taking to work… one filled with meat for the main course, and a sweet one for desert. The pie was preceded by the coffyn – which was more of a pastry container made out of a flour and water that was used to cook and eat the pie – but wasn’t itself eaten. (I guess when you bake flour and water for hours you wouldn’t really want to.)

But enough about pies. When I first moved to London, it took me a wee bit to accept the savory pie. I was all about apple pie, blueberry pie and my absolute favorite – strawberry rhubarb pie.  (It really is the best pie, unless the blueberry pie is made from Maine blueberries…) Anyways, that they called a savory pastry “a pie” just seemed wrong. Some cultural gaps are challenging to cross. All told, I circumvented the cultural gap by eating Indian samosas instead.

Anyways, really, enough about pies.

I’d say, it’s much more importantly profound to discover and recognize businesses which that are helping out their communities, than giving regard to those who don’t. I was reading a very lucid article recently, about the American Capitalism’s Great Crisis that highlights our illness of “financialization”, where we have allowed our financial institutions to grow from serving businesses to being the biggest business on the block.

They point out how banks originally used to exist as a service to help businesses grow – not as the powerful controlling industry that they’ve become today. In a world where profits are the measurement of success, banks keep developing tools to increase their profits, even at the expense of the businesses and people that they serve.  (Such as the recent subprime mortgage crisis…)

Capitalism itself isn’t evil, but the harm comes when we direct our attention solely towards profits and neglecting the value we deliver. When a business focuses on solving other people’s problems (and not just their own pocket book), then they naturally become socially minded and take actions that benefit others… quite often in ways that are profitable all around.

Socially minded businesses are becoming more common, and this is often referred to as having a double bottom line. I remember a story about the Greyston Bakery from 60 minutes back in 2004 – it was the first time I heard of the double bottom line. The bakery focused on hiring the chronically unemployed and incarcerated, creating jobs and helping people get back on their feet by baking luxury cakes. (One of the founders was a practicing Buddhist, and this influenced my interest in Vipassana meditation – funny how small things can effect your life!)  More recently, I’ve been enamored with The Hot Chicken Takeover – a local restaurant here in Columbus, Ohio, doing much the same thing – running a profitable company aimed at helping incarcerated people get back into the workforce.

I liked Peter’s Pie’s story about raising money for a local hospice. Hospice care is one service that you generally don’t think about until you’re at the end of the road. And it is very different from other support services, because the objective isn’t to improve your life and keep on living… but to make the end of life comfortable and pain-free.  I was further amused to have read that they’ve even donated to Run 4 Wales… so once you’re done stuffing in those pies, you can go burn off some calories. Makes me want to hop on back to the UK for a pie, a jog and a pint of cheer.

So here’s a cheer to a savory pie that does more than wet your appetite!

Also published on Medium.

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