Europe is a dis-Union when it comes to place of pasty’s origin
It may be said that every notable thing about the Copper Country except for the copper was brought here from somewhere else, with the pasty being a notable example.
A delicacy of the Upper Peninsula, virtually unknown below the bridge, this delicious and nutritious one-course meal is believed to have been brought here in the 19th century by Cornish miners.
But there is another version of history about the pasty.
Cornwall is famous for its tin production, and when the copper mines of the Keweenaw opened up, Cornish miners crossed the ocean, bringing much of their culture — and their favorite meal — along with them.
Meat, vegetables and potatoes baked entirely within a crust provides a self-insulated, hand-held meal, but it may also have served another purpose.
It is believed that the crust of the pasty, now so often discarded by youths, was once used exclusively to hold the pasty so that the rest could be eaten without contacting the miners’ dirty hands.
The admittedly somewhat romanticized idea of the intrepid Cornish miner coming to the new world with a love letter in one pocket and a pasty in the other was widely accepted in the area for a couple of centuries, but the idea of this notion being the origin of the pasty has recently drawn more revisionist scrutiny.
Historical accounts and records include pasties in other parts of England and Europe long before the first evidence of the hand-held meat-pie appearing in Cornwall.
Scholars believe pasties from other parts of Europe, like France, were likely a much simpler dish, consisting of only meat and breading.
As far as historians know, the pasty of the U.P. — consisting of beef, potatoes, rutabagas and onions — is a strictly Cornish invention, which has lived on in its new home.
The history of the pasty does not end with its arrival in the Upper Peninsula, however. As different immigrant groups adopted the pasty, several varying recipes emerged, as the Finns preferred carrots to rutabagas in their pasties, and the Italians preferred pork to beef.
Just about every business that sells food in the Copper Country sells some version of the Cornish pasty.
Many area restaurants have also added their own footnotes to the history of the pasty. Vegetarian pasties that uphold most of the traditional flavors and ingredients can be found at many grocery stores.
Some bakeries that specialize in pasties now also sell breakfast pasties, filled with ham and eggs, or pizza pasties with tomatoes and cheese.
While these variations might not fly in the original home of the pasty, where the food recipe and origin are legally protected by the European Union, they certainly add some spice to a traditional favorite here in the U.P.