No problems here, Houston. Or should I say Roby Mill, Wigan over in the United Kingdom? Because that’s where some dude decided to strap a pretty little meat pie to a weather balloon and launch it into the sky last week.
“It is believed this is the first pie to be launched into the stratosphere,” the BBC reported last week. That's quite an achievement. Like all good stunts, this one, initiated by a man named Tony Callaghan in conjunction with the "space enthusiasts" of SentIntoSpace, was predicated on the intent of “raising awareness”—but for what? Tomorrow’s annual World Pie Eating Championships in Wigan, baby. It’s quite an event, and Callaghan, who plans to participate, wanted to know whether the exceedingly high altitude would tinker with the pie's molecular structure, making it easier to swallow. The fully-cooked pie of meat and potatoes was affixed to a camera and radar tracker and launched into space in the hopes that it'd freeze upon ascent and cook itself on its way back down to earth. It flew for three hours, reaching a height of 153,000 feet—that's about 29 miles.
I know your first question: was this pie really in space? The answer is no; it was launched into the stratosphere, also known as “not space,” though that hasn’t stopped content farmers from farming some pretty misleading headlines. Maybe they’re thinking of China sending some grapes lunging into space earlier this year, fearing its earthbound vineyards would be too parched to support the blossoming of wine in a few years. Can’t wait for those shriveled grape cuties to reach home!
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As for the pie of meat and potatoes, 153,000 feet in the air is nothing to sneeze at. By my watch, that still constitutes a pie in the sky. The meat pie eventually landed in a field full of sheep, roughly 50 miles from where it first launched. It was mostly intact, spare for a rupture in its middle, its own little Sierra Nevada fault line. The pie was still fully cooked; no word on whether it was easier to eat. It caught some pretty nice views along the way—I mean, look at it go! Move over, Barbarella.
Are pies with meat and potatoes any good? Let me know in the comments.
Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.