Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Pie Floater

A “pie floater” is a traditional dish served at pie carts in Adelaide, and elsewhere in South Australia, the purpose of which is to provide sustenance to people attending Australian Rules football matches, and other sporting fixtures in really appalling weather.

The pie floater consists of a traditional, demotic, commercially manufactured Australian meat pie, deposited upside down in a bowl of thick pea soup, with a generous dollop of tomato sauce (ketchup) on top. Salt and pepper, and/or mint sauce may be added to taste.

To the extent that it is not a dish so much as a dare that got out of hand, the pie floater may regarded as a very distant Commonwealth cousin of the Québecois poutine:

This sobering concoction consists of a mound of French fried potatoes, sprinkled with fresh cheese curds, and sometimes other starchy ingredients as well. The whole is then smothered with brown gravy.

The main justification for poutine is the severe Canadian winter, but there are no comparable grounds for seriously defending the existence of the pie floater, even though Anthony Bourdain, Joe Cocker, and Billy Connolly are said to be fond of it.

A well-known version of the pie floater, popular with tourists, cashiered sailors, indigents, hoodlums, tarts, medical students, and off-duty policemen may be purchased from Harry’s Café de Wheels, a pie cart long situated near the wharves at Woolloomooloo in Sydney, but Adelaide remains the psychic epicenter of this odd culinary experiment.

In 2003 the National Trust of Australia saw fit to designate the pie floater as a South Australian heritage “icon.”


  1. My main memory of the floater is not at a football match. While 'crashing out' at the Morgans of Walkerville in a year that might have been 1978 (I cannot remember), one of the Morgans 'piled' us all into a car for a night tour of the hot spots of Adelaide. High on this list of wild sites was the Norwood Town Hall. Not the Town Hall itself but the caravan outside, from which wafted in the spring air the delicious aroma combination of good beef pie and peasoup. The same, topped with a squirt of your best Rosella, or was it the downmarket White Crow?, appeared in the line of vision upon the toughest of white china plates. Thoughtfully, the floatermongers provided stool-tables on the footpath, so the midnight drifters could satisfy their attack of the 'munchies' at lesiure. Life was good, nor did we know at the time that we were devouring a heritage icon. Next stop, Glenelg.