Cornish pasty has its moment in the sun

Cornish pasty has its moment in the sun

The most important outcome of last week's G7 summit in Cornwall was undoubtedly the appearance of tempting new versions of the traditional Cornish pasty. One bakery came up with a large pasty called "Biden's big-un", while also on offer were "Merkel's minted lamb'', "Macron's mixed veg", and the cheese-filled "Boris' Stilton".

Possibly to show off his new trimmer frame, Boris even had a quick swim in the sea, although he wasn't able to convince other G7 leaders to dip their toes in the less-than-warm waters of Carbis Bay.

Readers are probably familiar with the pasty, Cornwall's "national dish" known locally as "oggy''. It consists of baked pastry containing minced beef, onion, potato and swede/turnip, or as it is a called by the locals, "termut, tates and mate" (turnip, potatoes and meat).

The pasty is held in high esteem and there have been songs and poems paying homage to this noble West Country pie. There is even an Ode to a Cornish Pasty on YouTube.

It was refreshing to see Cornwall in the limelight and also the sunlight. With its rugged coastline of coves, caves, cliffs, beaches and romantic harbours it is overflowing in atmosphere. Residents also have their own way of talking, with "ansome" an approving word for anything they like, while if you hear someone mention the "big city", they are talking about Truro, not London.

Pie in the sky

Cornwall conjures up wonderful place names including Polperro, Porthcurno, Liskeard, Lostwithiel, Mevagissey, Mousehole (pronounced Muzzel), Brown Willy and Booby's Bay. Then there is picturesque Port Isaac where they filmed the TV series Doc Martin.

Aside from pasties, there is a wide variety of food and it's hard to resist a Cornish afternoon tea of scones, clotted cream and jam. There are also a number of local cheeses including Cornish brie. For the more adventurous there is Stargazy Pie, originating in the aforementioned Mousehole. It consists of baked pilchards with fish-heads poking out of the crust as if they are gazing at the sky. Possibly not for everyone.

'Little Cornwall'

There is even a Cornish pasty museum which happens to be in Mexico. In the 1820s hundreds of Cornish miners were transported to the southern Mexican towns of Pachuca and neighbouring Real del Monte to help revive the stagnating silver mines. They proved successful and became popular amongst the grateful citizens, especially after introducing football to the country with Pachuca becoming Mexico's first football club.

They also introduced the Cornish pasty, which caught on among the locals. Pasty-making has since become a substantial business in Pachuca although the Mexicans have adapted the pasty to their own taste, adding chilli sauce, refried beans and chicken.

The strong links with Cornwall have remained. The area around Pachuca and Real del Monte is known as "Little Cornwall" and in 2007 they were twinned with the Cornish towns of Camborne and Redruth.

Mousehole memories

One of the first books I ever read was set in Cornwall. Enid Blyton's Five Go Down to the Sea really caught my eight-year-old imagination as the four kids and their loyal dog Timmy experienced adventures featuring smugglers, secret tunnels and stormy seas. A few years later, in 1962, I was there with my parents, based in St Ives, on our annual fortnight's holiday. We didn't come across any secret tunnels.

My dad insisted on visiting Mousehole simply because he was tickled pink by the name. It is a lovely spot too and we did the touristy thing by having one of those clotted cream teas in a cafe overlooking the harbour. Thankfully Stargazy Pie was not on the menu.

First, or maybe last

We made the obligatory trip to Land's End, the most westerly point in England on the wonderfully-named Lizard Peninsula. It was extremely windy and standing on the cliff looking at the waves crashing down on the rocks below I half-expected to see the remains of a shipwreck or at least a few surreptitious smugglers.

On the way to Land's End we passed assorted pubs, cafes and shops all claiming to be the "very last" such establishment in England. We stopped off at The First and Last Inn at Sennen Cove, which claims to have been a "haven to smugglers and ship-wreckers since the 17th century". They don't indulge in that sort of thing now, of course, although I swear I saw Long John Silver sitting in the corner.

Kicking the bucket

There are fascinating pubs and inns in Cornwall, many steeped in history, usually involving smugglers. One of the more famous is the Jamaica Inn on Bodmin Moor, which was the title of a novel by Daphne du Maurier and a 1939 film Jamaica Inn, by Alfred Hitchcock. It seems an odd name for a pub on a bleak Cornwall moor but is believed to have derived from two members of the powerful Trelawney family being governors of Jamaica in the 18th century.

More intriguing is the Bucket of Blood pub near Penzance. Two centuries ago the landlord drew a bucket from the adjacent well only to find it full of blood. A search down the well discovered the source of the blood, a murdered smuggler. Definitely the place to order a "Bloody Mary". After all that it seems appropriate to conclude with the popular Cornish expression, "Giss on!" (stop talking rubbish!).

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Roger Crutchley

Bangkok Post columnist

A long time popular Bangkok Post columnist. In 1994 he won the Ayumongkol Literary Award. For many years he was Sports Editor at the Bangkok Post.

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