[Sca-Cooks] Pasty in Ayto

Johnna Holloway johnna at sitka.engin.umich.edu
Fri Jul 27 17:31:24 PDT 2007

*"pasty* Pasties, particularly those made in Cornwall, have become 
objects of some controversy. What sort of meat and other ingredients 
should a pasty contain, what shape should its crust be, should its first 
syllable rhyme with /hast/ or /past/ (or even /paste/, once a common 
pronunciation)? Historically, a /pasty/ is meat baked in a pastry crust 
without a dish. The word was borrowed in the thirteenth century from Old 
French /pastee/ (ancestor of modern French /pâtée/ and /pâté/), which 
came from medieval Latin /pastta/, a derivative of post-classical Latin 
/pasta/, ‘paste, dough’. In medieval English, it was generally applied 
to a baked case containing only one main ingredient, which was typically 
venison (in contrast to the /pie/, which commonly had a miscellaneous 
mixture of ingredients). In the seventeenth century, pasties were still 
expected to contain venison (although expectations were not always 
fulfilled: ‘The venison pasty was palpable beef, which was not 
handsome,’ Samuel Pepys, /Diary/, 6 January 1660), but by the late 
nineteenth century we even find references to pasties filled with fruit.

And indeed the Cornish pasty itself, the ultimate in easily 
transportable lunch, has been known in the past to contain meat and 
vegetables at one end and at the other, separated by a pastry partition, 
jam or fruit for pudding. Tennyson, in his /Audley Court/ (1842), 
described a particularly rococo example of the pasty: ‘A pasty 
costly-made, / Where quail and pigeon, lark and leveret lay, / Like 
fossils of the rock, with golden yolks / Imbedded and injellied.’ The 
answer to the above questions, incidentally, is that in their time 
Cornish pasties have been filled with mutton, lamb, beef, pork, even 
fish, and when money was short, bacon or simply plain vegetables—and in 
general, the proportion of potatoes, onions, etc. to meat is according 
to what can be afforded; the half-moon shape is essential, but the 
pastry can be joined in the middle, in a scalloped crest, or at the 
side, with a twisted ropelike effect, according to preference; and the 
pronunciation rhyming with /past/ seems to have a longer history than 
that rhyming with /hast/."

"pasty" /An A-Z of Food and Drink/. Ed. John Ayto. OUP 2002. /Oxford 
Reference Online/.


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