What Makes Britain Great #6

Posted on June 22, 2016

The sixth in a series of snippets about what makes us Brits a bit special.  Here we talk about the original hand held convenience food:

  1. The Cornish Pasty

Since 2011 the Cornish Pasty has Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status in Europe.  Pasties originated in Britain, specifically Cornwall, where for many years they were the daily meal for the miners who worked the tin mines.

A Cornish pasty is essentially meat, onion, swede and potato baked inside a pastry parcel.  European Union rules now dictate this.  They also state that to be a Cornish pasty, the filling must contain at least 25 percent vegetables and at least 12.5 percent meat. Most importantly, the pasty must be made in Cornwall.

The thick pastry crust is what the miners would use to hold the pasty in order to eat it.  Since their hands were dirty (and often tainted with arsenic which was found in tin mines) the crust would not be eaten but dropped to the floor – some superstitious miners believed that this fed and therefore placated the mine “gremlins” who would otherwise cause them mischief and mayhem.  The miners wives would stamp the miner’s initials into the bottom corner of the pasty and according to ancient recipes, the true Cornish way to eat a pasty is to hold the crust and begin to bite it from the opposite end to the initial, so that, should any of it be uneaten, it may be consumed later by its rightful owner.

Pasties have remained a favourite food in Britain for hundreds of years and these days there are fast food chains which specialise in them.  You’ll find a stall dedicated to homemade pasties at most local fairs, they are for sale in virtually every corner-shop, supermarket and petrol station and come with many different fillings.

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