I’ve had some serious stomach issues since I’ve been in the US. It’s funny, in Asia people ask me all the time, “Can you eat rice?” I tell them I always eat rice, that I have an allergy that keeps me from eating bread. What????? They’re stunned. Westerners eat bread, they don’t eat rice and they don’t like spicy foodâ€”so the thinking goes. And then I blow prevailing thought to the wind, scarfing down a bowl of rice and biting into a hot little chili. It’s a great way to make friends.
Eating in the US, however, is a problem. For me. Not only must I read labels and make life difficult for party hosts, my gut must adjust from a diet overwhelmingly heavy on soy, rice, garlic, lemongrass, chili, ginger, galangal and bountiful herbs and spices, to a diet that’s simply not so. That said, at times I willingly cheat on my gluten-free diet. If you’ve been reading long enough, you already know that. And so I did in the UP, where it’s nearly sacrilege to forgo the pasty.
Now, you might ask, “What da heck is a pasty?” It’s a Cornish meat pie, brought to the Michigan copper mines as the working man’s practical lunchâ€”hot and filling. Tuck it inside a jacket, and it will keep a body warm for hours. Incidentally, while we cleaned out Jerry’s grandfather’s house in the UP, I came across a treasure: Butte’s Heritage Cookbook from Montana’s old mining capital, which in decades past happened to be the most cosmopolitan culinary destination between Chicago and San Francisco. The book contains hundreds of recipes from no fewer than 21 ethnic groups (plus wild-game concoctions, preserved foods and special recipes from the Evel Knievel family). It also offers four versions of the pasty, though ingredients rarely vary a great deal.
We stopped at a little pasty shop called Jean Kay’s in downtown Iron Mountain (204 East B Street). As noted on her business card, all you need is flour and water, shortening, onions, flank steak, potatoes, suet, salt, pepper and rutabaga. Come inside and get it hot, or take it home to bake. It’s a big thing. A piping hot pasty, ready for the road, looks like this:
It was tasty. A delicious crust. But truth be told, the pasty is not for me. My stomach bloated up like a balloon and I suffered for days afterward (exacerbated by a five-hour drive following the meal).
But the pasty may be for you, and I recommend you give it a try if you find yourself in the UP (or Butte). You’ll have no shortage of options.