Pasty Attack

Pasty A

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 food—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 lunch—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:

Pasty C

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.

9 thoughts on “Pasty Attack

  1. So on cold days, i can use pastys for hand warmers?. oohh organic hand warmers! Good for the hands and good for the earth!

  2. And I thought that pasties – as in Cornish Pasties – were an English delicacy! It’s always one of the first things I eat when I go back to the UK – after fish and chips of course. Good to see you can get them in the States…

  3. Karen,
    Cornwall in England is one of my favourite places in the UK and the pasties are legendary. In fact, I have been told by the local Cornish folk that the early pasties used to have a sweet filling at one end so that the miners could have main course and dessert in one go! This was something the British army latched on to, my Father was drafted to fight in the Suez Canal crisis just after the second world war and he told me they used to give him dried ‘bully beef’ in a mess tin with the dessert plonked on top!
    ‘It was full of sand and grit but you ate the lot!’

  4. Well, the pasty certainly was a hand warmer!

    Shauna, I’m sorry you can’t cheat. I really shouldn’t either, at least not in the US. My stomach tolerates a little cheating every now and then when I’m in Asia and the rest of my diet tends to, um, clean out the system much more easily.

    With a little luck, we’ll be heading to the UK later this year as we take a round-about overland route back to Asia (that’s my hope, anyway). We’ll see if my stomach can tolerate one of those pasties… I’m intrigued by the dessert end! Clever, clever.

  5. The secret to amazing pasties: a pat of butter and a dash of fesh cracked black pepper on top of the filling before you fold and pop them in the oven. Yum. They are incredibly heavy, though, but sometimes, as my sister says, “the pasty spirit moves you” and nothing else will do.

  6. Wow, that thing looks huge! No wonder it keeps you full for hours! My husband and I had one for the first time in London last year, I think just meat and potatoes, and it was very satisfying eating it outside in 40 degree weather.

    Asians are funny about Caucasians willingness to eat their food. Being half Korean, full Koreans are always surprised that I can cook and eat the native food. The funny thing is that they always ask me if I know how to eat kimchee! I respond “with your mouth?”

  7. I just moved to the UP a few years ago and I was bullied into trying a pasty.

    Jean Kay’s pasties are OK, but I think the Pasty Oven (a few miles down US2 in Quinnesec) and Pasty King (not sure where, but they sell them from a trailer in the summer) make better ones for what it’s worth.

    I eat pasties after really long bike rides and they’re great. I can’t eat them in a sedentary context or I suffer as you suffered. They’re work-food for sure.

    Oh, if you ever eat another one, try some Frank’s Red Hot or some mustard with it. Makes all the difference in my opinion.

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