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A pasty (Cornish: Pasti, (the 'a' pronounced as in 'cat'), or less commonly pastie, Tiddy Oggy,) is a filled pastry case, commonly associated with Cornwall, United Kingdom. It differs from a pie as it is made by placing the filling on a flat pastry shape, usually a circle, and folding it to wrap the filling, crimping the edge to form a seal. The result is a raised semicircular package. The traditional Cornish pasty is filled with diced meat, sliced potato and onion, and baked. Pasties with many different fillings are made; some shops specialise in selling all sorts of pasties.

Oggy is a slang term used in Britain which comes from a Cornish term for the pasty.


The origins of the pasty are largely unknown. It is generally accepted that the pasty (as we know it today), originates from Cornwall. Tradition claims that the pasty was originally made as lunch ('croust' or 'crib' in the Cornish language) for Cornish tin miners who were unable to return to the surface to eat. The story goes that, covered in dirt from head to foot (including some arsenic often found with tin), they could hold the pasty by the folded crust and eat the rest without touching it, discarding the dirty pastry. The pastry they threw away was supposed to appease the knockers, capricious spirits in the mines who might otherwise lead miners into danger. A related tradition holds that it is bad luck for fishermen to take pasties to sea. Pasties were also popular with farmers and labourers.

The pasty's dense, folded pastry could stay warm for 8 to 10 hours and, when carried close to the body, could help the miners stay warm. In such pasties, the meat and each vegetable would each have its own pastry "compartment," separated by a pastry partition. Traditional bakers in former mining towns will still bake pasties with fillings to order, marking the customer's initials with raised pastry. This practice was started because the miners used to eat part of their pasty for breakfast and leave the remainder for lunch; the initials enabled them to find their own pasties. Some mines kept large ovens to keep the pasties warm until mealtime. It is said that a good pasty should be strong enough to endure being dropped down a mine shaft. It was also said by miners in the Butte, Montana, USA area, that a pasty was "as welcome as a letter from 'ome (home)."

Pasties are still very popular throughout Devon, Cornwall, Wales, other parts of the United Kingdom, Ireland and Brittany. Pasties in these areas are usually hand-made and sold in bakeries or sometimes specialist pasty shops. Mass produced pasties, quite different from traditional Cornish pasties, are sold in supermarkets throughout the United Kingdom. Several pasty shop chains have also opened up in recent years, selling pasties better than the mass-produced ones with a variety of fillings. Pasties are often eaten on the move like other fast foods.

The true region from which pasties originated is hotly disputed between Cornwall and Devon; and some areas of Devon where ancient references to pasties have been found were originally part of Cornwall. Outside Britain, pasties were generally brought to new regions by Cornish miners, and as such are referred to as a Cornish invention.

In many Latin American countries empanadas are made; they are similar in shape to Cornish pasties, though usually made without potato—minced beef, chicken, and maize are common fillings. They may be baked or fried.


While there are no completely standard pasty ingredients, the traditional recipe includes diced steak, finely sliced onion, and potato. Other common ingredients include swede (rutabaga, called yellow turnip in Cornwall) and sometimes parsley. The presence of carrot in a pasty is sometimes considered an indication of inferior quality in Cornwall, although it has become common in American pasties. Traditionally skirt steak is used, although sometimes other cuts can be found. Pasties made with beef mince (ground beef) are also common and are often sold alongside steak pasties as a cheaper alternative. While meat is a common ingredient in modern pasty recipes, it was a luxury for many 19th century Cornish miners, so traditional pasties usually include many more vegetables than meat.

Pasty ingredients are usually seasoned with salt and pepper, depending on individual taste. There is a theory that Cornish pasties may have originally contained two courses: meat and vegetables at one end, and fruit (such as apples, plums, or cherries) at the other. This may reflect the pasty's use as a complete meal for miners, but it is disputed that the fruit ingredients could survive the lengthy baking process required for the meat. It is possible that instead a small amount of jam was inserted under the crimp at one end of the pasty while it was still hot. No two-course pasties are commercially produced in Cornwall today. Pork and apple pasties are readily available in shops throughout Cornwall, albeit with the ingredients, including an apple flavoured sauce, mixed together throughout the pasty, as well as sweet pasties with ingredients such as apple and fig or chocolate and banana, which are common in some areas of Cornwall.

Today pasty contents vary, especially outside Cornwall. Common fillings include beef steak and stilton, chicken and ham, cheese and vegetable and even turkey and stuffing. Other speciality pasties include breakfast and vegetarian pasties. Pasty crust recipes also vary, but traditional recipes call for a tough (not flaky) crust, which could withstand being held and bumped in the Cornish tin mines. Modern pasties almost always use a short (or pastry) crust. There is a great deal of debate among pasty makers about the proper traditional ingredients and recipes for a pasty, specifically the mixture of vegetables and crimping of the crust. The crimping debate is contested even in Cornwall itself, with some advocating a side crimp while others maintain that a top crimp is more authentic. One theory is that pasties made in Devon were traditionally crimped at the top, while pasties made in Cornwall were crimped at the side, although there is little evidence to support this.

In Cornwall there is also a version known as the windy pasty. This is made by taking the last bit of pastry left over from making pasties, which is then rolled into a round, folded over and crimped as for an ordinary pasty. It is baked in an oven and when done (while still hot) opened out flat and filled with jam. It may be eaten hot or cold.

Pasties were traditionally eaten as a complete meal, with the vegetable and meat juices acting as a form of gravy. Nowadays, pasties are sometimes served with chips and/or gravy or ketchup as a dressing.

In other Cornish-influenced regions

Cornish miner migrants helped to spread pasties into the rest of the world during the 19th century. As tin mining in Cornwall began to fail, miners brought their expertise and traditions to new mining regions around the world. As a result, pasties can be found in many regions, including:

  • The slate belt mining region of eastern Pennsylvania, including the towns of Bangor, East Bangor, Pen Argyl and Wind Gap where many churches to this day hold "pastie suppers" or sell the items as a means of making money for their parishes.
  • Parts of Wisconsin, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and the Iron Range of northern Minnesota. In some of these areas, pasties are a significant tourist attraction, including an annual Pasty Fest in Calumet, Michigan in early July. Pasties in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan have a particularly unusual history, as a small influx of Finnish immigrants followed the Cornish miners in 1864. These Finns (and many other ethnic groups) adopted the pasty for use in the Copper Country copper mines. About 30 years later, a much larger flood of Finnish immigrants found their countrymen baking pasties, and assumed that it was a Finnish invention. As a result, the pasty has become strongly associated with Finnish culture in this area.
  • The Mexican state of Hidalgo, and the twin silver mining cities of Pachuca and Real del Monte (Mineral del Monte), have notable Cornish influences from the Cornish miners who settled there with pasties being considered typical local cuisine. Mexican pasties are often served stuffed with typically Mexican ingredients, such as tinga and mole sauce . In Mexican Spanish, they are referred to as pastes.

Early references to Pasties

  • A 13th century charter was granted by Henry III (1207–1272) to the town of Great Yarmouth. The town is bound to send to the sheriffs of Norwich every year one hundred herrings, baked in twenty four pasties, which the sheriffs are to deliver to the lord of the manor of East Carlton who is then to convey them to the King.
  • The 13th century chronicler Matthew Paris wrote of the monks of St Albans Abbey "according to their custom, lived upon pasties of flesh-meat"
  • 1393 - "Le Menagier De Paris," (venison, veal, beef, & mutton)
  • 1420 - 15th century cookery-book has a 'venysoun pasty' served at A Royal feast for the Earl of Devonshire
  • 1465 - The installation feast of George Neville, archbishop of York and chancellor of England, there were served 4,000 cold and 1,500 hot venison pasties.,
  • A 16th century (1510) Audit Book and Receivers Accounts for the Borough of Plymouth, show the financial cost of making a pasty, using venison from the Mount Edgcumbe estate just across the Tamar River, is housed in the Plymouth and West Devon Record Office.
  • 1672 - To Make a Venison Pasty from The Queen-like Closet or Rich Cabinet by Hannah Wolley.
  • 1678 - Rare and Excellent Receipts by Mary Tillinghast
  • 1720 - Lamb and venison pasty recipe from Edward Kidder's Receipts of Pastry and Cookery
  • 1742 - Mary Swanwick's `Her Cookery Book'
  • 1774 - The Art of Cookery, by Hannah Glasse (venison pasty)
  • 18th century - The Cornwall Records Office (CRO) in Truro has a recipe for a Cornish pasty of 1746. This is the earliest record of a true Cornish pasty recipe.

The pasty in music, art, and literature

The pasty is the subject of various rhymes and songs. It is also featured in many works of literature, including several of Shakespeare's plays.

The earliest known literary reference to pasties appears in an Arthurian romance by a Frenchman called Chretien de Troyes from the 12th century, set in Cornwall and written for the Countess of Champagne. This work includes the lines:

Next Guivret opened a chest and took out two pasties.
My friend,' said he, 'Now try a little of these cold pasties ..."
However this reference is doubtful as the original French could be translated to mean simply "pastry."

References to pasties later occur in various Robin Hood stories of the 1300s.

In Chaucer's 14th century work The Canterbury Tales there are two references to pasties. First, "All of pasties be the walls of flesh, of fish, and rich meat." and second, "pouches of dough that were small and portable rather than their next of kin, pot pies, which were very large and stayed on the table." These references seem to directly describe a pasty in the modern sense.

In the late 14th or early 15th century, French chronicler, Jean Froissart, wrote, of people "with botelles of wyne trusses at their sadelles, and pastyes of samonde, troutes, and eyls, wrapped in towels"

There are references to pasties in three of Shakespeare's plays. In The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act 1 Scene 1 the Page says "Wife, bid these gentlemen welcome. Come, we have a hot venison pasty to dinner: come gentlemen, I hope we shall drink down all unkindness". In All's Well That Ends Well, Act IV Scene III, Parrolles states: "I will confess to what I know without constraint: if ye pinch me like a pasty, I can say no more". Finally, in Titus Andronicus, Titus bakes Chiron and Demetrius's bodies into a pasty, and forces their mother to eat them.

In the 16th century play Englishmen for My Money, or A Woman Will Have Her Will (1598) by William Haughton, is the line "I have the scent of London stone as full in my nose, as Abchurch Lane of Mother Wall's pasties"

Pasties appear in several other novels. In the novel American Gods by Neil Gaiman, main character Shadow discovers pasties at Mabel's restaurant in the fictional town of Lakeside. The food is mentioned as being popularized in America by Cornishmen, similar to how gods are "brought over" to America in the rest of the story. Another literature reference takes place in The Cat Who... series by Lilian Jackson Braun. Jim Qwilleran often eats at The Nasty Pasty, a popular restaurant in fictional Moose County, famous for its tradition of being a mining settlement. Reference to pasties is also made in Brian Jacques' popular Redwall series of novels, where it is a staple favourite on the menu to the mice and hares of Redwall Abbey. Pasties also appear in the Poldark series of historical novels of Cornwall, by Winston Graham, as well as the television series adapted from these works.

Pumpkin pasties are a staple in several of the Harry Potter novels by J.K. Rowling.

Cyril Tawney wrote the song The Oggie Man in 1959 and it appeared on the album A Cold Wind Blows. A west country schoolboy playground-rhyme current in the 1940s concerning the pasty went:''

Matthew, Mark, Luke and John,
had a pasty ten feet long,
cut it once, cut it twice,
oh my God, it's full of rice.

The Jeff Daniels film "Escanaba in da Moonlight" uses pasties in a humorous sense as a major part of the storyline.

Belle and Sebastian have a song named Le Pastie de la Bourgeoisie.

Cultural references

A traditional Cornish tale claims that the devil knew of Cornishwomen's propensity for putting any available food into pasties, and would never dare to cross the River Tamar into Cornwall for fear of ending up as a pasty filling.

The word "oggy" in the popular British rhyme "Oggy Oggy Oggy, Oi Oi Oi" is thought to stem from "hoggan", the Cornish word for pasty. When the pasties were ready for eating, the bal-maidens at the mines would shout down the shaft "Oggy Oggy Oggy" and the miners would shout "Oi Oi Oi" meaning yes, or all right. The Welsh comic Max Boyce apologised to the Cornish nation for taking the rhyme from Cornwall and claiming it to be Welsh. It was probably taken to the South Wales coalfield by Cornish miners. It is often sung at Cornish rugby matches where it is accompanied by a second verse.

Giant pasties

Pasties are the subject of various competitions and festivals. In Fowey, Cornwall a large pasty is paraded through the streets during regatta week. It is long and is so heavy that it needs to be carried by four men - normally in fancy dress. Similarly, a giant pasty is lifted over the goal posts of the Cornish rugby team when they play an important match. Calumet, Michigan holds "Pasty Fest" each summer to celebrate the regionally famous food.

Although there is no official world record for the largest pasty, in 1985 a group of Young Farmers in Cornwall spent 7 hours making a pasty over long. This was believed to have been beaten in 1999 when bakers in Falmouth made their own giant pasty during the town's first ever pasty festival.

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