Chauncer waxed poetic with bad rhyme on pasty

An Upper Peninsula delicacy introduced to the region by Cornish immigrants in the 1840s, the pasty has a history extending to the Medieval period of Britain.

The first mention of the pasty in literature is found in Geoffry Chaucer’s 13th century “Canturbury Tales,” in which he wrote:

“Now tell on, Roger, and look that it be good;

For many a pasty hast thou letten blood.”

According the website historic-uk.com, the pasty has been a documented part of the British diet since the 13th century, mostly reserved to the upper-middle classes and royalty.

The fillings were varied and rich, the website states, using venison, beef, lamb and seafood such as eels, seasoned with rich gravies and fruits.

In Cornwall this was definitely not the case.

“However, in Cornwall, a county much in tune and dependent on the sea,” the website states, “the use of seafood in a pasty was unthinkable and inappropriate.”

The traditional Cornish pasty recipe lists the filling ingredients as beef, potato, onions, and swedes (rutabagas). In the 17th and 18th centuries, meat was expensive and rare. Pasties contained far more vegetables than today.

“The presense of carrot,” historic-uk.com states, “although common now, was originally the mark of an inferior pasty.”

While the pasty is a hallmark of the Upper Peninsula, many have taken liberties while making them. In Cornwall, the pasty is taken very seriously, and the Cornish Pasty Association exists to preserve the traditional integrity of the signature of Cornwall.

According the CPA’s website, the organization was “originally created by a collective of Cornish pasty producers concerned about the number of products being sold across the country as ‘Cornish pasties,’ despite bearing no resemblance to the real thing, the association now administers the PGI (protected geographical indication) designation granted in 2011 by the EU (European Union) and is here to help anyone who would like to make, buy, sell or find out more about Cornish pasties.”

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