The Cornish Pasty
Michael Raffael went to search out the secret of making the world's best pasty and found it in Cornwall.
You never talk of a "Cornish pasty" in Cornwall. It's always pasty, pure and simple. The second most important thing to remember when considering this savoury parcel is that a proper pasty is a meal in itself. Putting it on a plate with chips is ignorant and a sure sign that the kitchen from where it emerged spared little regard for the quality of the pasty itself. Third, it is important to note that the filling always goes into the pasty raw.
To make an authentic pasty, the vegetables, comprising onions, potatoes and swede (they call it turnip in Cornwall!), must be sliced. The meat, usually skirt or chuck steak, should be chopped. Baking takes upwards of an hour, during which time the filling steams and its flavours blend together. Freshly baked pasties stay hot for more than an hour.
The pasty is the national symbol of Cornwall. Pasty myths and legends abound. Nobody can quite pinpoint when pasties originated, but there's a letter in existence from a baker to Henry VIII's Jane Seymour, saying "...hope this pasty reaches you in better condition than the last one ...".
Over the centuries they became the staple diet of Cornish miners, engineers, blacksmiths. Everyone but fishermen. "It's bad luck to take a pasty on board," explains Ann. When fishermen set sail, they leave their pasties ashore - one reason why home-made pasties are traditionally marked with the owner's initials, to avoid confusion. On terra firma the portents are clearly more auspicious: "According to superstition, it's pasties that keep the devil out of Cornwall," she says.
Today, visitors know that a trip to Cornwall would not be complete without tasting a Cornish pasty. Visitors have come from as far away as New Zealand just to taste Ann Muller's pasties, and one lady wanted some to take back to Egypt. Famous regulars include Jenny Agutter, Rodney Bewes and the late Eva Mitchell, who was the oldest lady on the Lizard. Plenty of people from all over the world want to sample an authentic pasty and see how one is made. "I even give classes on my counter top. I must be the only pasty school in the world!" says Ann.
Wherever Cornish people go pasties soon follow. "Cousin Jacks" who emigrated to the United States brought their pasty know-how with them. In Michigan, a big mining area, pasties are still more popular than hamburgers. Mexico has "Pastees", Argentina has "empanadas" and Italy has "calzone".