Chef Essig's Featured Item of the Week = Pasties, a self-contained meal
Foods that are designed with a purpose (besides just satisfying our hunger) are few and far between. The sandwich is one example. It was supposedly designed so the Earl of Sandwich could keep playing cards and not stop to sit down to a full meal. Confit is a way of preserving something in its own fat as well as a tasty picnic meal. Of course, there is anything and everything on a stick so fair-goers can eat while parading the promenade.
Can you think of any other foods that are not only tasty but functional?
One that came to mind for me was the Pasty or the Pastie. No, not THAT kind... this one's pronounced "pass-tee" as in "Please PASS me the TEA."
These pasties are pastries that start out with a simple circle of dough. It can be filled with any variety of fillings, so they're extremely versatile. They get folded over, the edges are crimped, and then it's baked. Pasties are very similar to calzones, empanadas, and pierogis – but they all have different origins.
The origin of the pasty is said to come from Cornish miners who needed to take something hearty and filling with them down into the mines. They couldn't be dragging a lunch box around with them, so they needed something that would be easy to carry. Whatever it was needed to be self-contained, quick, convenient, and filling.
The pasties (also called oggies by the miners) would be filled with meat, potatoes, rutabagas, carrots, other vegetables, or whatever else may have been available at the time. The functionality of the pasty is due to the thick edge where it gets sealed. The edge allowed the miners something to hold onto as they ate. They could also be heated up over the candle head lamps.
With no hand washing available in the mines, these miners would take the dirty piece of crust and cast it off as a gift for the Tommy Knockers. (Tommy Knockers were said to be the spirits of departed miners who helped miners find ore and warned them before cave-ins.) With the levels of arsenic and other toxins that the miners may have come into contact with, not eating that part of the pastry made for a very functional food --and a smart decision by the miners.
Pasties are especially popular in my home state of Michigan. In the 19th century, English miners migrated to the Upper Peninsula and brought the tasty tradition with them. It caught on with the local miners, and today there is even a Michigan Pasty Day observed on May 24th.
At Tobey-Kendel Dining Room this week (dinner on Friday, April 19th), you can sample a traditional recipe for pasties containing ground beef, rutabaga, carrots, potatoes, onion, and tomatoes. Vegetarian versions are also available. We will serve them with some fried cabbage, and if you want to try the pasty's Russian cousin, the pierogi, we will have those available as well.
You may not be toiling in the mines, but you still need some hearty nourishment to get you through the day… so come on over to TK and enjoy!
Here in Dining Services, "We Feed The Bears!"
Happy Dining from Executive Chef Essig!
Chef Aran Essig, CEC, CCA
(Certified Executive Chef, Certified Culinary Administrator)
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