Mini-Review: Safari Pies

For ten years when I was a kid I lived in Australia. A staple fast food item at that time was the meat pie. A typical meat pie consisted of a thin layer of ground mystery meat in greasy gravy inside a non-porous pastry shell. Normally it was consumed with large quantities of "tomato sauce" (Aussies didn't use the term ketchup or catsup.) The concoction was usually ordered as "pie and sauce", although the pronunciation (to North American ears) was more like "pine source".

The meat pie seems to have its origins in the home country (aka the United Kingdom, Great Britain, England etc.), and it seems to have been a South African staple as well. Or at least that's what I suspect, judging from the origins of Safari Pies (located at City Square, that strange mall across the street from Vancouver City Hall at the corner of 12th and Cambie). This fast food outlet is one of two (the main factory is somewhere out in Burnaby), and is run by a group of South Africans of Chinese ancestry.

Compared to the pies of my youth, a Safari Pie is a gourmet experience. Let's start with their take on the classic plain meat pie: the Pepper Steak Pie. Real chunks of lean beef bathed in a peppercorn gravy, enveloped in a light golden pastry. These delicacies stand head and shoulders above their predecessors.

Add to it the following selection, and you have one of the strongest arguments against nostalgia I can conceive of: Steak and Kidney, Steak and Onion, Chicken and Mushroom, Spinach and Feta; Beef Curry, Chicken Curry, Vegetarian, Cornish Pasty, and more...

Unreservedly recommended to anyone who had an encounter with a meat pie from the Antipodes in their past. One of these will pleasantly update your memory of a bygone age (at least it did for me). For those of you brought up on the frozen pies of the North American supermarket, the experience may not be so inspirational, although a Safari Pie still beats the pants off one. It's simply that the supermarket frozen pie simply isn't the same as the meat pie of my Aussie youth: it's like comparing beef broth to Vegemite.

Safari Pies, 9B 555 West 12th Avenue, (604) 876-7437

Contributed by David Koop