Pasties hit the streets | Bleader

Pasties hit the streets


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  • katerha
I grew up eating pasties, those upper-midwestern delicacies that are (like most things) best consumed with butter and/or ketchup. They were sold occasionally out of the basement of the local Methodist church, where members made them from scratch. (You could buy them in the grocery store, too, if you were willing to settle for a lower quality; my hometown, unlike bigger burgs like nearby Escanaba, didn’t have any regular designated pasty stands.) Pasties, for the uninitiated, comprise a pastry shell wrapped around a filling of beef, potatoes, rutabaga, and onion—sort of like a samosa, only bigger, and baked rather than fried.

There are a couple notable things about pasties, which originated as food for miners in Cornwall: That they’re homographically related to a stripper’s garment, and this relation sows confusion and hilarity into conversations about the food. (For the record: rhymes with “nasty,” not “hasty.”) That their history is rich and intriguing—I read somewhere that wives baking pasties for their husbands to take down into the mines would pack one end with apple-pie filling, as a sort of dessert. Their crimped pastry edge, meant as a handle, was to be thrown away rather then eaten due to the high levels of arsenic in the tin mines.

There's also the fact that they're delicious.

So it’s awesome that the proliferation of Chicago food trucks has produced this: the Bridgeport Pasty Company, in whose tagline is embedded an explanation (“ . . . like a handheld pot pie!”) and whose menu includes three variations. The Chic-Pot-Pie is basically a chicken pot pie in a shell; the veggie contains spinach, mushrooms, gruyere, and bechamel. There's also the Yooper, which I’m most keen to try, and also most keen to opine on. To wit: garlic and parsley, in a pasty? "Seasoning"? I'm skeptical. (Dried parsley and garlic powder are closer to acceptable, I guess.)

  • Jason Cartwright
Luckily the Cornish Pasty Association is here to clear this issue up: they created a document defining the Cornish pasty. It reinforces most of what I know to be true, with the exception that they specify the "swede," or turnip, as the starchy filling, though locally pasties are made with rutabaga. [Update: swedes are rutabagas. Thanks to cassie.] The seasoning is "primarily salt and pepper." No other vegetables may be used, and most particularly not carrots (which prohibition I firmly support).

The document also provides some history:

By the 18th century the pasty was firmly established as a Cornish food. The familiar Cornish pasty was made and eaten by poorer working families who could only afford cheap ingredients — potatoes, turnip (swede) and onion. Meat was added later.

By the end of the 18th century the Cornish pasty had become the staple diet of working men across Cornwall, and their families too. Miners and farmworkers took this portable, easy-to-eat convenience food to work with them because it was so well suited to the purpose. Its size and shape made it easy to carry (usually in a pocket), its pastry case insulated the contents and was durable enough to survive while its wholesome, nourishing ingredients provided enough sustenance to see the workers through their long and arduous days.

You can follow the Bridgeport Pasty truck on Twitter. There are no Yooper pasties today, alas; only Chic-Pot-Pie or spinach and mushroom.