Could a Cornish Pasty start a fire in a mine? Just like King Alfred who let the bread burn in the oven, a miner in Moonta forgot that he had left his pasty sitting on a shovel heating over a lamp. The high fat content in the pastry caused it to combust and it spread to the surrounding wooden boards.
The world-famous Cornish pasty had very aristocratic beginnings. In fact, pasties were enjoyed by royalty over seven centuries ago in Britain. It has been recently claimed that the Cornish pasty really began life in Devon and probably should be called a Devon pasty!
Working down a mine in a hot and dusty environment was hard and hungry work. The men would be covered in grime with nowhere to wash up before eating. So, a long time ago, a pasty had been invented that had a crimped crusty ridge along its top.
The Cornish miners brought the idea of a pasty with them from Cornwall as it was their sustenance during the long shifts they worked. It was ideal because it would keep warm for a long time and could be re-heated if necessary.
Each pasty would contain at least potatoes and onions with a few extra ingredients based on the individual’s preference, what was in the garden and what they could afford! To identify the pasty for an individual in a family, often their initial was marked in one corner. The crimped top became the handle for the miners’ grubby hands and so they started eating the bottom first. The crimped pasty top was not eaten but discarded, having served its purpose.
The miner would start at the savoury half and finish on the sweet dessert half, enjoying his hearty lunch!
Although the mines have long ceased, the Cornish Pasty has lived on due to its popularity. It still can be bought from local bakeries in Australia’s Little Cornwall. Check out Taste the Yorke Cafe across the road from ByGeorge!