CORNISH-L ArchivesArchiver > CORNISH > 1999-08 > 0933804906
From: philip ellery <>
Subject: That Pasty article!!!
Date: Wed, 4 Aug 1999 23:15:06 +0100
In message <001901bedec1$06daa780$>, Phil Schatz
>For those of you who don't get the times, the article is available online
heres the offending article!!!
August 4, 1999
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Critic's Notesbook: No Fury Like the Pasty Scorned
By WILLIAM GRIMES
have a liking for England's meat pies. A good steak and kidney pie is
heaven to me. I will walk a country mile to get my hands on a well-made
chicken and mushroom pie, and I consume with pleasure pork pies heavy
enough to throw through a double-glazed window.
What could be more enticing, then, than a week in Cornwall, surrounded
by one of the most famous meat pies of all, the Cornish pasty?
DEFENDERS OF THE PIE Ann Muller was among the Cornwall natives who stood
up for their pasties.
I came, I saw, I tasted. I became deeply depressed.
Wandering up and down Cornwall, from St. Ives to Land's End, from
Padstow to St. Mawe, I sampled pie after pie. With each purchase, hope
flickered briefly, only to be extinguished by the leaden, potato-stuffed
football in my hand.
The crust, with its distinctive crimping along the edge, was either
soggy or tough. The diced beef, perhaps a tablespoon's worth, had a
grayish tinge. The sliced potato and onion filling had weight, and lots
of it, but very little taste.
A popular souvenir in Cornwall is a shiny ceramic pasty, meant to be a
paperwight or a doorstop. It struck me that it probably wasn't much
different than the real thing.
I shared these thoughts in a light-hearted article.
Amazingly, the Cornish took offense.
Over the past week, my comments were broadcast across Britain in
newspapers, on radio stations and on television. The population was
roused, and the Cornish, although slow to anger, were beginning to howl
Ann Muller, the owner of the Lizard Pasty Shop in Heldon, on the Lizard
Peninsula, expressed the region's mood when she applied a blowtorch to
an American flag and called for a boycott of American goods.
The flag, which was nylon, melted a little but did not actually catch
fire. I suggested to a newspaper reporter that here was the problem in a
nutshell: Too many of Cornwall's pasty makers seem to go for the
It didn't help.
The Times of London devoted a feature to the subject and denounced me in
an editorial as an "impudent American food critic," incapable of
appreciating the simple, wholesome pleasures of a food the Cornish have
loved for centuries.
"Grimes and his bumptious comments may be dismissed," The Times wrote.
"He is merely overpaid, overfed and over here."
The Plymouth Evening Herald ran a shock-horror front-page headline in a
type size not seen since Neville Chamberlain came back from Munich.
"Hands Off Our Pasty!" it shrieked. A giant pasty was depicted on the
front page, and although pasties do not exactly have body language, this
one looked as if its feelings were hurt.
For Americans, a few words of explanation may be necessary.
The baked good in question is as simple as can be. It is a short-crust
pastry rolled out in a circle, filled with chopped beef, sliced potatoes
and onions, seasoned with salt and paper, and then folded over and
crimped along the edge. Brushed with milk or egg and baked in the oven,
it becomes a meal in a pouch.
For generations, Cornishmen stuffed a pasty into their overall pockets
on their way to the mines. The crimped edge made a convenient handle,
and the pasty could be eaten without a plate or utensils. Fishermen
avoided them, believing that it was bad luck to bring one on a boat.
As a national symbol, the pasty is to Cornwall what the shamrock is to
Ireland, or the thistle is to Scotland. It is sold in every bakery. It
features on countless postcards.
A recent one, timed to the eclipse on Aug. 11 that is expected to draw
hundreds of thousands of tourists to Cornwall, shows a giant Cornish
pasty crossing the sky and darkening the sun. Another card, "The Full
Pasty," shows a chorus line of overweight, drunken Cornishmen wearing
fisherman's caps and nothing else, each one holding a strategic pasty.
No wonder Cornwall was going up in flames. Regional radio and television
stations called. Then the national channels: Radio 4, Radio 5, Sky News.
The BBC World Service. After two days I began to lose track.
I was given many opportunities to take it all back. I stood firm. I
repeated the simple truth, that the average Cornish pasty is hopelessly
bland, and that the only way most of them make any impression at all is
by loading up on black pepper. The situation turned ugly: some callers
began threatening to send me pasties.
Gristers, the country's largest commercial maker of pasties, unveiled a
national advertising campaign on Monday, with posters showing a large
pasty with the slogans "Bland's End" and "Perfectly Peppered to the Last
The truth is, I still nourish hope. Several Cornishmen have called me,
agreeing that the typical pasty sold at most bakeries was nothing much,
but that if I were to drop by their houses, they would make me a pasty
Ms. Muller's pasties have won praise in a number of publications, and
I'm told that a butcher in Hayle makes a bang-up pasty. Somewhere out
there, waiting for me, is a noble baked pie, savory and steaming with
tender chunks of British beef, gorgeous slices of good Cornish potato
and honest onion, and perhaps a turnip or two for good measure. It will
be salted. And yes, it will be peppered to perfection.
On the other hand, it may be that I am beyond hope. As one outraged
Cornish pasty lover put it, "The man is obviously a complete imbecile."
What the Fuss Is All About
New York is not exactly pasty country. As far as I know, there is only
one local source for Cornwall's pride and joy, Myers of Keswick at 634
Hudson Street in Manhattan. The pasty sold at Myers is an elongated
rectangle rather than a half-moon shape, the beef is ground rather than
diced, and the boiled potato is a paste rather than slices, but the pie
is quite good and very traditional in spirit.
The basic filling of meat, potato, onion and carrot is wrapped in a
cold-water crust made with lard, and there's a proper Cornish crimp
running along the top. Unlike most Cornish pasties, the Myers pasty is
about two-thirds meat. Baked on the premises, it costs $2.75.
* Phil Ellery * St. Columb Major *
Home page= http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Village/553
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