A Cornish Pasty (which rhymes with nasty – although, they’re really quite yummy) is simply a meat pie you can hold in your hand to eat. It’s a bit like a pot pie without the pot. Although there is debate about where pasties originated, we know they were brought to America by Cornish miners who immigrated here after the tin mines in England failed. At the time, Cornish miners were the most skilled hard-rock miners in America, and other ethnic groups who worked in the mines adopted mining language, and food, from the Cornish. The pasty became popular with these other ethnic groups because it was small, portable, extremely filling, and it could stay warm for 8-10 hours. If it did happen to get cold, the miner would put his pasty on a shovel and hold it over a head-lamp candle to heat it up.
Miners never ate a pasty with a fork, they ate it end to end, and held it upright to keep the juices in. Since entire Cornish families worked in mines and each member of the family wanted different ingredients in the pasty, the Cornish wife would stamp the bottom corner of each pasty with an initial. According to the Cornish Recipes Ancient and Modern, “The true Cornish way to eat a pasty is to hold it in the hand, and begin to bite it from the opposite end to the initial, so that, should any of it be uneaten, it may be consumed later by its rightful owner. And woe betide anyone who take’s another person’s corner!” There was a superstition among the Cornish miners that the initial corner should not be eaten, and instead it was dropped on the ground for the Tommyknockers to eat. Tommyknockers frequently caused mischief in the mine, and feeding them was thought to appease them somehow. This superstitious action actually protected the miners, because the portion of the pasty they held with their dirty hands was discarded, preventing them from consuming the mining dust on their fingers.
If you’re feeling ambitious and would like to try making pasties yourself, The Barefoot Kitchen Witch has a detailed recipe with pictures of each step. Although different people groups use different ingredients and seasonings, everyone agrees that a pasty must have potato and onion. The rest, really, is up to you.