The Pasty: British Baked Pastry is Very, Very British

Three pasties on a doily
Three pasties on a doily! Does it get anymore British than that!?

The Cornish pasty is a hallmark of British excellence. Indeed, along with butter pie and sausage rolls, this pastry is proof of English exceptionalism.

Today we’re celebrating its place in the comfort food market. A regular before football matches for beer-swilling geezers, it’s a glorious ode to fullness.

What’s a Pasty?

A pasty is a baked pastry loaded up with beef, potatoes, swede, and onion. It’s typically seasoned with black pepper and salt.

Specifically, it’s a turnover pastry. Lots of other cultures do this as well, if you think of Italy’s calzones, Canada’s tourtière, and China’s shaobing.

But her in Blighty, reet proper pasties are as reet proper as they get. Hearty, filling, and oh so bad for you. It’s another comfort food delight.

Along with the likes of pies, fish and chips, plus some beer, pasties are incredibly prevalent for football fans before a match.

There’s a charming football chant these fans bellow. It goes:

“Who ate all the pies?

Who ate all the pies?

You fat bastard, you fat bastard, you ate all the pies!”

Pasties very much fit into this laddism culture, as the foodstuff is generally associated with geezers with beer bellies who read The Sun.

Away from that, pasties are of course bloody tasty.

But as with many iconic British foods, they’ve just moved beyond being merely something to eat. They’re also something of a statement of intent.

Manliness, patriotism, nationalism, footie, bellowing—traditional English life with none of that weird stuff.

Eating one in public, you fit into the crowd and indicate you’re one of us. So, eat thy pasty. Or you’ll get a knuckle sandwich.

What’s the History of the Pasty?

Pasties are heavily associated with beautiful Cornwall in southwestern England. However, it’s the type of food you normally associate with northern life.

Despite all of that, where the pasty came from is unclear.

At least we know where the word came from! “Pasty” is taken from Medieval French.

There’s a 1393 book called Le Menagier de Paris that indicated very bloody clearly to women how to bloody well behave properly in life.

In that, pasté consists of venison, veal, beef, or mutton.

In England, there’s a written reference to pasties during King Henry III (1207-1272) and his reign.

Directly ordered at Great Yarmouth, the demand was to send the sheriffs of Norwich 100 herrings and 24 pasties annually. These would then be delivered to the King.

So, by Medieval England the recipe was already a resounding success and a mainstay in society.

In 1465, at a feast hosted for George Neville, archbishop of York and chancellor of England, some 5,500 venison pasties were served.

The food was consumed by lowlife peasant scumbags who were just too lazy to have money, but also by high society.

Jane Seymour (1508-1537) would receive pasties in the mail from prominent bakers. She’d then pass them on for her husband.

That was the notorious King Henry VIII. He suffered from severe obesity and gout in later life due to his extravagant lifestyle.

Of course, bellowing football chants at him would merely have got you beheaded. So we’re sure no one mentioned his bloated appearance.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, the working class began to hoard the pasty for themselves. Miners, for example, found the pastry to be a perfect meal to accompany them deep down underground.

By the late 19th century, schools began teaching pupils how to cook Cornish pasties. In the late 19th century, schools began teaching pupils how to cook Cornish pasties.

And into the 20th century, it’s now become someone of a perfect pre-match meal for beer guzzling football hooligans.

From King Henry VIII to Bob from Burnley yelling whilst clutching his pint and pasty, “The referee’s a wanker!” What a journey for the ages.

Of course, these days the pasty is the national dish of Cornwall.

And the Cornish Pasty Association takes great efforts to preserve the integrity of the pasty dish.

The CPA went as far, in 2011, to gain Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) for the humble pasty. This determines:

  • Cornish pasties must be shaped like a D.
  • The pasty should be crimped on one side.
  • The ingredients must include beef, swede, potato, onion, and light seasoning.
  • Pasty pastry must be golden.
  • Cornish pasties must be prepared in Cornwall.

CPA members make around 90 million pasties each year, with sales topping over £60 million.

Pasties Have Invaded the World

With significant amounts of Cornish diaspora over the last few hundred years, miners from Cornwall have spread pasties throughout the rest of the world like a plague.

These people are referred to as Cousin Jacks/Jennies.

They helped to popularise pasties Australia, America such as California and Nevada), Jamaica, South Africa, New Zealand, and Mexico.

Oggy Oggy Oggy, Oi Oi Oi!

This famous chant is also apparent due to pasties. In Cornwall, “hoggan” was the word for pasty.

When bal maidens brought the miners their food for lunch they’d shout, “Oggy, oggy, oggy!” And the minders would bellow back, “Oi, oi, oi!”

It makes us wonder where football hooligans got their chants from. Always like there’s some link going on here, or something.

How to Make a Pasty

Here he is again. It’s the smoking… oh. Hang on, guess not this time! No Jamie Oliver, it’s Gillian Francis. She’s the Amateur World Pasty Champion 2018!

The ingredients you’ll need to conquer the world (and expand your waistline) are as follows:

Potatoes
Onions
Butter
An egg
Flour
Ground meat
Salt
Carrots/swede/rutabaga
Lard
Black pepper

Yeah, we’ve never made a pasty before. So perhaps follow Mz. Francis’ instructions in that video to have yourself a comfort foodstuff delight.

28 comments

  1. Inasmuch as I enjoyed the history, and the video of the 2018 champion, we seem to have a cultural divide here.
    In Canada, as in much of N. America, a Pasty or Pasties are patches that cover a person’s nipple and areolae, typically affixed with adhesive.
    Commonly used by strippers, especially in the days of Burlesque, they are still used for certain events/situations.
    IE… theres a love scene being filmed on set. The actress is modest, so the wardrobe department provides pasties… bandaids can also be used.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. My Mum used to make Cornish Pasties on occasion (NZ being more British than the British, back in those days, and at least 0.5 percent more British than Australia). She had an American pen-friend and used to exchange letters regularly, but I don’t know whether she mentioned the pasties or whether hilarity ensued owing to the slight difference in meaning on the other side of the Pacific.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Interesting to imagine a pasty business trying to open shop in America and causing a national outrage. I had no idea about that one! Such ignorance.

      I’m still surprised fish and chips is so popular in NZ. If I was there I’d spend 99% of my time eating seafood.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah F&C is popular here, though it’s not what it was – KFC, MacDonalds and various pizza joints have all eaten into the dominance of the Friday night Kiwi chippie (also Taco Belle, Wimpy’s, etc). Seafood is quite restricted by law, due to collection limits, but they do sell ‘paua fritters’ (abalone) in the fish & chip shops.

        Liked by 1 person

        • We’re having a pretty massive war about kippers in England these days with Brexit etc. Suddenly the kipper has become an icon of British independence for many. I say!

          Must admit I’ve not been in a fast food joint in many years. Perhaps I’ll start tomorrow with a Big Mac.

          Like

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