Tuesday, May 29, 2012

An Unlikely Victory for the Cornish Pasty

Back in the day when men were men and sheep were nervous and we had better things to do than farting around with blog templates, there were Cornish pasties.



The pasties were made by the womanfolk of Cornish tin miners who toiled in damp and hazardous conditions underground. They could be dangled down on ropes and were hardy enough to withstand the deprivations of nature.

The Cornish Pasty Association cites references going back to the reign of Henry III in the 1200s. But the pasty with its crust became a mainstay during the heyday of the tin mines.



"There are hundreds of stories about the evolution of the pasty's shape, with the most popular being that the D-shape enabled tin miners to re-heat them underground as well as eat them safely. The crust (crimped edge) was used as a handle which was then discarded due to the high levels of arsenic in many of the tin mines," the association states.


This morning a newspaper I once worked on in the south west of England declared "Victory," on its front page. It was declaring the Government's climbdown on its plans to introduce a tax on Cornish pasties and other hot snacks after critics said the uppity crew of Eton educated boys who are in power today were targeting the working classes and their snacks.



Apparently pasties will no longer be taxed, as long as they are still hot.

It's curious that the victory of the humble pasty over the disdainful elite should make such headlines at a time when kids are being massacred in Syria, but news is as much about escapism as it is news.

I have something of a soft spot for the Cornish pasty as it reminds me of family holidays in St. Ives, although the pasties invariably seemed to contain something crunchy like grit and the meat was a curious grey color as if a convenient rat had been passing when the makers were stirring the nefarious ingredients.



No matter. Like haggis the pasty is a part of British culture. As a kid I was always fascinated by the ruins of the tin mines that clung precariously onto the edges of the Cornish cliffs. A scene from the bodice ripper Poldark would come to mind when there had been a tragic accident down the mine and the womanfolk would rush weeping to the coast.

My fond memories of Cornwall come rushing back, not that I appreciated it much when I lived nearby. Maybe it was all those infernal stories about pasties that I was forced to write.

12 comments:

  1. Yes, you've missed quite a bit of Pasty-Gate over here. Total uproar!

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    1. wow that does amaze me WrightStuff - didn't realize it was so big

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  2. Ha! David, that first line made me laugh. And then I misread the second paragraph and thought the female pasty-makers were the ones dangling down on ropes, "hardy enough to withstand the deprivations of nature." Sheesh, I guess it's been a long day.

    This is such an interesting post. The "handles" on the pasty make perfect sense. A little scary, though, to think the miners had to be so careful of the poison in those mines.

    I must go to St. Ives. :)

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    1. lol Jayne - it does read a bit like that - well you know back in the day :) -you should go to St Ives.

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  3. Eeeeeeeeeuw, rat-pasties! ::gags::

    How bizarre, this whole pasty taxation business. WTF, rich folk?

    I had a bit of a pasty when I visited the UK in 1998. Maybe it was just that that one wasn't great, but it didn't really thrill me. Curiously, I had some *amazing* pasties in, of all places, Scottsdale, Arizona, when I went for a work conference. The area was settled by Scots, apparently...they were extraordinary pasties. (I'm drooling a bit, thinking about them.) The pipers at the hotel, however, were just Godawful. :-)
    Some Dark Romantic

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    1. ha ha Mina - well I guess London Bridge is in Arizona now so why not pasties. For sure pipers don't export well.

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  4. I'm not a great pasty fan although I suppose it's because I don't make them and the only ones I get offered are industrial and awful. It would never occur to me to buy one from Greggs for lunch.

    A sausage roll on the other hand...

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    1. I know right, Sarah - I had sausage rolls recently at an English shop and it brought it home to me how much I missed them.

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  5. I think i had a pasty once at a Renaissance Faire in California and it was OK but I prefer shepherd's pie. You'll NEVER get me to try haggis though. They did a weird taxation thing in California once - the tax was on 'snack' food. It confused the bakers because there was no tax on apple turnovers and pastries b/c apples weren't a snack, they were a fruit. But the tax applied to the raspberry items, not considered a fruit for some reason. It lasted less than a year before deemed too confusing.

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    1. that's weird JoJo - actually haggis tastes really good. Then you think what's in it and you sorta gag.

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  6. For some odd reason, I've come close to Cornwall several times but have never quite gotten there. It remains on my list of places to visit, upped considerably by the scenery in Doc Martin. Along the way, I've dined on many a pasty, from downright delicious to what's in this thing? Must say, though, for caloric satisfaction, Shepherd's Pie can't be beaten. Adore those things. I'll pass on haggis, thankyouverymuch (cause I know what's in 'em!)! BTW, your opening sentence was pure genius! Great post!

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  7. i had lots of cornish pasty when i visited plymouth a while back...and it was delish!

    thinking about them, my mouth waters.

    brilliant write as usual.
    wish you a good weekend!

    hugs to tara!

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