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A pasty ( (the 'a' pronounced as in 'cat'), ), known in (West) Cornish dialect as tiddy/teddy oggy/oggin, and sometimes as pastie in the United States, is a filled pastry case, commonly associated with Cornwallmarker in the United Kingdommarker. 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 beef, sliced potato, swede (also known as a Swedish turnip) and onion, and baked. Pasties with many different fillings are made; some shops specialise in selling all sorts of pasties.


The origins of the pasty are largely unknown, although it is generally accepted that the modern form of the pasty originated from Cornwallmarker. Tradition claims that the pasty was originally made as lunch ('croust' or 'crib' in the Cornish language) for Cornish tin miners who were unable to return to the surface to eat.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, particularly in the North East of England, also a mining region.

A researcher in Devon found a reference to a pasty in a 16th century document, and argued that this showed the pasty originally came from Devon, although this was refuted by Cornish historians claiming that evidence for the pasty's roots in Cornwall go back millennia. The earliest known recipe for a Cornish pasty is dated 1746, and is held by the Cornwall Records Office in Truromarker, Cornwall. Outside Britain, pasties were generally brought to new regions by Cornish miners, and this strengthens the argument that pasties are a Cornish invention.

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. 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, Montanamarker, USA area, that a pasty was "as welcome as a letter from 'ome (home)."

Protected status

In 2002, the Cornish Pasty Association, the trade organisation for pasty making in Cornwall, submitted an application to the UK government's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairsmarker (DEFRA) to obtain Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status for the Cornish pasty. DEFRA has confirmed that it is backing the application and will be sending it to the European Commission for final approval. If PGI status is granted to the Cornish pasty (the same status that has been granted to Champagne, Parma Ham, Stilton Cheese, Arbroath Smokies, Cornish Clotted Cream, and many other items of regional produce) it would mean only pasty makers based in Cornwall who make in a traditional manner and follow a traditional recipe will be able to label their products as Cornish pasties. The Association notes that there are strong links between pasty production and local suppliers of the ingredients. The native Cornish pasty industry is able to source a large percentage of ingredients locally. In 2005, 5,700 tonnes of potatoes, 5,200 tonnes of beef, 310 tonnes of onions and 1,550 tonnes of swede were produced by Cornish farms for the Cornish pasty industry. Until recently, it was considered Cornwall was not a suitable location for growing wheat or onions commercially. However, Cornwall's biggest pasty maker has worked with the agricultural community to develop its own source of wheat and onions and can now source 45% of its flour requirement from local growers and is hoping to be able to source 40% of its onion requirement locally in the near future.

Modern situation

Pasties are still very popular throughout Cornwallmarker, Devonmarker, Walesmarker, North East England, other parts of the United Kingdommarker, Irelandmarker and Brittany. They are also popular in the northern United States. 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.

Recipes and ingredients

A traditional Cornish pasty filled with steak and vegetables
While there are no completely standard pasty ingredients, the traditional recipe includes diced or sliced steak, finely sliced onion, and potato. Other common ingredients include swede (rutabaga, called yellow turnip in Devon and Cornwall) and sometimes parsley. The use of any carrot in a Cornish pasty is frowned upon by purists, and is rarely found in commercially made pasties in Cornwall. Traditionally skirt steak is used, although sometimes other cuts can be found. Pasties made with ground beef or beef mince 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.

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. It has been said that the difference between Devon pasties and Cornish pasties is that the Devon pasty has a crimped crust running along the top of the pasty and is oval in shape, whereas the Cornish pasty is semicircular with a thicker crust running along the curved edge of the pasty, however it is more probable that the choice between top and side crimp versions is highly dependent on the whim of the cook.

Pork and apple pasties are readily available in shops throughout Cornwall, 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.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, filled with jam and crimped as for an ordinary pasty. It may be eaten hot or cold.

Pasties were traditionally eaten as a complete meal (accounting for the large size of the traditional pasty) the 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.
A disc of pastry is cut out using a small dinner plate as a template (30 cm ruler is shown for scale)
The cooked pasty, ready for eating

Two-course pasty

A half-savoury, half-sweet pasty (similar to the Bedfordshire clanger): was eaten by miners in the 19th Century. An old recipe exists that was eaten by workers in the Copper mines on Parys Mountainmarker, Angleseymarker. In 2006 the recipe was adapted by the Food Technology Centre, at Coleg Menai, Llangefnimarker. The "two-tone" pasty in thick short crust pastry had a meat and vegetable mix on one side and fruit and jam on the other, creating a "meal in one". Attempts to get commercial interest in the two-part pasty failed. The technician who did the research and discovered the recipe claimed that the recipe was probably taken to Anglesey by Cornish miners travelling to the area looking for work.

These pasties have no significant commercial history and no two-course pasties are commercially produced in Cornwall today, but are usually the product of amateur cooks. The sweet and savoury sections are separated by either a pastry divider or a finger of stale bread. This recipe may reflect a desire to make the the pasty a more complete meal. An alternative method is that a small amount of jam was inserted under the crimp at one end of the pasty after cooking.
Pasties are closed, pressed and crimped, with steam holes at the meat end and identifying initials at the afters end
The afters end of the pasty - this one contains apple and chopped apricot

In other Cornish-influenced regions

Cornish miner migrants (Cousin Jacks) 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:

A "Cousin Jack's" pasty shop in Grass Valley, California
The Upper Peninsula of Michiganmarker. In some of these areas, pasties are a significant tourist attraction, including an annual Pasty Fest in Calumet, Michiganmarker 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 Mexicanmarker state of Hidalgomarker, and the twin silver mining cities of Pachucamarker and Real del Monte (Mineral del Montemarker), 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.

Paste bought in Mexico City
Pasties from Australia

Early references to pasties

  • A thirteenth century charter was granted by Henry III (1207–1272) to the town of Great Yarmouthmarker. 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 thirteenth century chronicler Matthew Paris wrote of the monks of St Albans Abbeymarker "according to their custom, lived upon pasties of flesh-meat"
  • The earliest version of Le Viandier, has been dated to around 1300. This cookbook that contains several pasty recipes.
  • 1393 – "Le Menagier De Paris," (contains recipes for pasté with venison, veal, beef, or mutton; this pasté is sometimes rendered as pasty in modern translations to English)
  • 1420 – fifteenth 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 sixteenth century (1510) Audit Book and Receivers Accounts for the Borough of Plymouthmarker, show the financial cost of making a pasty, using venison from the Mount Edgcumbemarker estate just across the Tamar River, is housed in the Plymouth and West Devon Record Office.
  • A letter from a baker to Henry VIII's third wife, Jane Seymour (1510-1537) says ...hope this pasty reaches you in better condition than the last one...
  • 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
  • 1707 – Mentioned in George Farquhar's The Beaux' Stratagem
  • 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 Truromarker 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 Chrétien 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"

In 1898 Robert Morton Nance wrote The Merry Ballad of the Cornish Pasty
When I view my Country o'er:
Of goodly things the plenteous store:
The Sea and Fish that swim therein
And underground the Copper and Tin:
Let all the World say what it can
Still I hold by the Cornishman,
And that one most especially
That first found out the Cornish Pastie.

A West Country schoolboy playground-rhyme current in the 1940s concerning the pasty went:
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John,
ate a pasty five feet long,
Ate it once, ate it twice,
Oh my Lord, it's full of mice.

Cyril Tawney wrote the song The Oggie Man in 1959 and it appeared on the album 'A Cold Wind Blows'.

In the American TV series The Andy Griffith Show, the 28th episode of the 4th series, broadcast in 1964 and entitled "The return of Malcolm Merriweather", Malcolm makes a pasty with afters for Sherriff Andy and his sidekick Barney Fife, explaining that a Cornish pasty has meat and potatoes on one side, and plum pudding on the other.

In 1971, Cornish folk singer Brenda Wootton wrote the song "There's something about a pasty" recorded on the Pasties & Cream album.

Pasties appear in several novels. In 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 BBC television series adapted from these works.

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

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 (a pun on "épater la bourgeoisie").

Barnaby Grimes, hero of a sequence of books written by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell, eats, in "Return of the Emerald Skull" (2008), a pasty with afters called a Stover's Special, kept hot in his pocket wrapped in greaseproof paper and filled with lamb, carrots and turnip with spiced apple and sultanas at the other end.

Cornish comedian and pasty expert Jethro jokingly maintains that the original pasty actually had three compartments - there was an extra, little one at the very end for an After Eight mint.

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 Cornish rhyme "Oggy Oggy Oggy, Oi Oi Oi" is thought to stem from Cornish dialect "hoggan", deriving from "hogen" the Cornishmarker (Kernewek) 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 Welshmarker 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.

Pasty superstitions

A popular superstition throughout Cornwallmarker is that a crust of the pasty should be left uneaten. Cornish miners would discard this last crust in order to appease the "Knockers", the spirits of dead miners believed to haunt the tin mines. Sailors and fisherman would likewise discard a crust to appease the spirits of dead mariners. These crusts were usually snapped up by seagulls, popularly held in West Country superstition to be the souls of dead mariners.

Cornish dialect ode to a pasty

I dearly luv a pasty,
A 'ot 'n' leaky wun,
Weth taties, mayt 'n' turmit,
Purs'ly 'n' honyun,

Un crus be made with su't,
N' shaped like 'alf a moon,
Weth crinkly hedges, freshly baked,
E always gone too soon!

Giant pasties

Cornish Pirates (senior XV of Penzance & Newlyn RFC) players display a giant pasty which was paraded as part of the 2009 St. Piran's Festival at Camborne, Cornwall
Pasties are the subject of various competitions and festivals. In Foweymarker, 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, Michiganmarker 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 Falmouthmarker made their own giant pasty during the town's first ever pasty festival.

The Dubner incident

Stephen J. Dubner in the "Freakonomics" section of The New York Times in July 2008 recounted accusing The Economist of a typo in referring to Cornish pasties being on sale in Mexico, assuming that "pastries" had been intended. The Economist responded by sending him a Cornish pasty. Dubner's fault was the result of ignorance (of the existence of pasties), rather than a typo or grammatical error.

See also


  1. Recipe for Tiddy Oggy from ITV 22 October 2007
  2. Discussion of Tiddy Oggy word derivation from
  3. p. 321 Columbia Guide to Standard American English
  4. Company website using term for product
  5. Hall, Stephen (2001) The Cornish Pasty. Agre Books, Nettlecombe, UK, 2001 ISBN 0 9538000 4 0
  6. from personal accounts of Ellison Opie, resident of Butte, a copper and silver mining town where many Cornish miners migrated to during the late 1800s and early 1900s.
  7. Grigson, Jane (1993) English Food. Penguin Books, p. 226

Further reading

  • The Cornish Pasty by Stephen Hall, Agre Books, Nettlecombe, UK, 2001 ISBN 0 9538000 4 0
  • The Pasty Book by Hettie Merrick, Tor Mark, Redruth, UK, 1995 ISBN 978-085025-347-4
  • Pasties by Lindsey Bareham, Mabecron Books, Plymouth, UK, 2008 ISBN 9780953215669
  • English Food by Jane Grigson (revised by Sophie Grigson), Penguin Books, London, 1993, ISBN 0-14-027324-7

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