It is January, and Greeks all around the world are holding the traditional cutting of the vasilopita, a cake-like pie containing a hidden coin.
It is done for good luck, while at the same time giving Greek people the chance to get together with friends and colleagues and celebrate the new year.
Vasilopita is just one of the many ‘pies’ (pita) Greeks eat and have introduced to the world. The world-famous Greek cheese pie (tyropita) and spinach pie (spanakopita) are only some of the kinds that Greek immigrants introduced to the United States. But, just like in Greece, Americans can savor over 50 different kinds of Greek pies.
Greeks call “pie” any kind of dish where ingredients are wrapped in puff pastry, thin crusty sheets or thin dough.
A pie gets its name according to the filling; so, other than the cheese and spinach pies that are the most common, there is ground-beef pie, ham pie, sausage pie, onion pie, leek pie, zucchini pie, apple pie (different from the American style since it’s made with puff pastry), lemon pie, cherry pie, peach pie, apricot pie, fig pie, spaghetti pie, chicken pie, pies with many different cheese varieties and named accordingly, and many more.
Then there are the cake-like pies, with the most common being the traditional vasilopita that signifies the New Year and is a cake with mastic and other ingredients.
Other cake-like pies are the karydopita (walnut pie), portokalopita (orange pie), sokolatopita (chocolate pie) and many more.
These pies were brought to the United States by the first generation of migrants, with the women making the dough and the pastry sheets themselves. The generations from then on improved these recipes, modernized them and introduced them to American society.
Greek American bakers, confectioners and restaurant owners have also played a role in promoting Greek pastries and bakery products.
Greek festivals in various communities also played a pivotal role in introducing Greek pies to Americans. When imports of food products became easier, diaspora Greeks and Americans had better access to such delicacies.