If you are visiting Cornwall, it is as important to try a pasty as it is a cream tea. Yes, really!
This fast food with a difference now comes in all sorts of flavours, to suit all tastes, and to Cornwall, the industry is a valuable asset. There is even a Cornish Pasty Association (yes, there really is such a thing) to champion their authenticity. Also, they taste good and fill you up!
It is an important part of Cornish culture and the local economy; trying a pasty experience is a no-brainer.
The genuine article
Would you believe it even has protected European status? This helps to protect regional foods, though post-Brexit, the position may change in the UK. There are even annual Cornish Pasty Championships (or Oggy Oscars, as they are known) so we Cornish take our pasties very seriously indeed.
The pasty story…
Legend went that the devil would not cross the Tamar for fear of being put in a pasty, as a Cornish woman could make a tasty filling from anything, so tales did tell! So a pasty was protective.
The pasty (which now comes in all sorts of flavours, including sweet) was first mentioned around 1300 as a delicacy for the rich and royalty (containing venison, beef, lamb or even eels), but became popularised by Cornish farmers and miners in the 1800s, because it is a perfectly designed man-sized finger food. A good pasty could survive being dropped down a mine shaft (or so the Cornish tell people – it’s nonsense of course, but a sense of humour is key)! Pieces of the crust would also be offered by the superstitious miners to sprites down the mine who otherwise liked to wreak havoc.
The Cornish pasty delicacy is now enjoyed around the world as Cornish emigrants have taken family recipes with them. The Cornish diaspora extended from New Zealand to Mexico and South Africa, as mining declined in Cornwall and men travelled the globe to find work, so you will find them in surprising places – but Cornwall remains their real home.
Oggy!, Oggy! Whaaaat?
The Oggy!, Oggy!, Oggy! is a traditional shout (which stems from ‘hoggan’) from the miners’ wives or pasty sellers; it is a call to say the pasties are ready. In Cornish slang, Oggy is simply a pasty.
The correct response is Oi!, Oi!, Oi
21st century flavours
Now, our palates have widened so you can get cheese and onion, bacon and brie and chicken tikka pasties among many others, including vegan ones. Some places sell sweet versions, or double ended, savoury and sweet options.
Writing on pasties stems from the miners’ wives marking their initials on them to avoid confusion. The fine art of crimping was much-practised by the daughters of the families.
Here’s how to make your own.
Things to know about the Cornish Pasty (info from The Cornish Pasty Association):
So, when you sate your hunger with a humble pasty, you are uncovering Cornish secrets and culture along the way. Enjoy.