The first time I saw one it reminded me of a deflated football or a toy boat by its shape but seeing it was not nearly as memorable as eating one.
“It” was a tasty, hearty meat pie you could hold in your hands because it had a built-in handle made of rolled crust.
Each time I see a new variation of a pastry with meat and other ingredients I’m reminded that coal miners in Great Britain were eating them 200 years ago.
My father’s family brought the dish – known up north as a pastie (pass-tee) – with them to Kentucky when they migrated from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
Winters are harsh in that part of the U.S. In fact, Dad used to tell us that they have two seasons of the year – the fourth of July and winter.
Many folks who live in the Upper Peninsula today apparently like to refer to themselves as “Yoopers,” a combining of U and P.
Pasties are so popular in the UP that they have a festival and restaurants that specialize in making and selling the self-contained meal that needs no utensils.
At least one company sells frozen pasties through a website.
The traditional pastie consists of beef, onion, potatoes, rutabaga and turnip, baked inside a thick, golden crust.
Miners from the Cornwall area of Great Britain are credited with bringing the pastie to the U.S. in the early 1850s when copper and iron mines were being opened.
The meal was perfect for miners who had no time to go above ground for lunch. Some miners kept their pasties warm by carrying them in a chest pocket.
Others placed them on a mining shovel and heated them with head-lamp candles.
The crusty edge allowed them to be held with dirty hands where there was no water for hand washing.
My mother and other women in our family learned how to make pasties but no one equaled those made by my grandfather.
My sister and my wife make them today and they remain one of my favorite meals. I’ve offered them to friends who share my love of meat and potatoes.
My grandfather was the first man I knew whose cooking skills today would qualify him as a chef. Granddad said he learned to cook at his family’s place of business.
His snooty sister-in-law described that place to us as a restaurant. When she left the room, Granddad looked over at me, winked and whispered that it was a saloon.
Keith Kappes is a columnist for The morehead (Ky.) News. Contact him at email@example.com.