The Baker The Cornishman The Seagull and his Pasty
If there was ever a way of measuring a Cornishman’s Cornishness… it would definitely involve checking out the size of his pasty! As an Eskimo pride’s himself on his Igloo so a Cornishman does with his pasty, not that he could live in it… but he could definitely live on it.
The Cornish Pasty has it’s origins somewhere around the 13th century, with it becoming common place throughout Cornwall in the 17th and 18th Century. The cheap readily available key ingredients of onion, swede and potato proved ideal for poorer working families. Meat was added to the ingredients at a later date.
For those of us who have been lucky enough to grow up in Cornwall, pasties will always be associated with days out. They have to be one of the most practical and portable foods you can buy and a freshly cooked pasty will stay warm for hours.
This ability to offer a square meal in one easy package is reputedly one of the reasons behind the origins of the pasty. Back in the day Cornish miners would cook them (well his good woman would!) wrap them up and take them down the mine. They would hold the crust while eating their pasty, then throwing it away afterwards. Saving the need to wash their hands while down in the mine. I’ve not been in a mine but apparently sinks and wash rooms are pretty few and far between down there.
Push forward a few years and we find ourselves in somewhat of a pasty revolution. Pasty shops have sprung up all over the place. In 2011 the Cornish Pasty received Protected Geographical Indication or PGI for short. The EU have got involved and set out minimum ingredient levels which need to be followed before you can call your pasty a Cornish Pasty. And now you can get almost every flavour under the sun… even desert pasties!
However, buyer beware, there is a pasty thief on the rampage. He swoops down from the skies and will have your unprotected pasty away within seconds… yes, the Seagull. A ruthlessly efficient bird who has developed a real taste for pasties and the skill to pluck a half-eaten pasty out of your hands before you can say “look at that lovely view!”
The seagulls in St Ives have become such a hazard that the Local Council and BID projects are looking into ways of deterring them. Almost all seagull attacks on programs such as You’ve Been Framed, are invariably filmed in St Ives. Surprisingly though, a local study has shown that almost 80% of seagull attacks are initiated by just 1 bird. Once the food is on the floor it’s a free for all and every bird in the immediate area gets stuck in to the free meal.
There are a couple of easy ways to avoid becoming the subject of a seagull pasty snatch, eat in Fore Street, under an umbrella or just keep your eyes well peeled.
But who makes the best pasty? A question which has almost certainly been the root cause of many Cornish Family feuds. Not being one to shy away from controversy I think the best pasty in St Ives is from the St Ives Bakery on Fore Street. I have the flaky pastry, standard… the perfect size, good balance of meat to veg and just a touch peppery. Yum!
You of course don’t have to agree, you’d be wrong, but you are entitled to you opinion… there is also The Pasty world championships at the Eden Project on the 28th Feb… don’t expect to agree with the judge’s decision but at least you can try a few pasties and have a good day out…