Cornish pasty has its moment in the sun
Without a doubt, the most important outcome of last week’s G7 summit in Cornwall was the appearance of mouth-watering new versions of the traditional Cornish pâté. A bakery offered a great pâté called “Biden’s big-un”, while “Merkel’s mint lamb”, “Macron’s mixed vegetables” and cheese-filled “Boris’ Stilton” were also offered.
Perhaps to show off his new cup frame, Boris even swam quickly in the sea, although he failed to convince the other G7 leaders to dip their toes in the less than warm waters of Carbis Bay.
Readers are probably familiar with the pastry chef, Cornwall’s “national dish” known locally as “oggy”. , tates and mate “(turnip, potatoes and meat).
The pâté is held in high regard and there have been songs and poems paying homage to this noble West Country tart. There is even a Ode to a Cornish Pasty on Youtube.
It was refreshing to see Cornwall in the spotlight and also in the sun. With its rugged coastline of coves, caves, cliffs, beaches and romantic harbors, it is brimming with atmosphere. Residents have their own way of speaking too, with “ansome” a word of approval 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 the picturesque Port Isaac where they filmed the TV series Doctor martin.
Pies aside, there is a wide variety of dishes available and it’s hard to resist a Cornish afternoon tea of scones, sour cream and jam. There are also a number of local cheeses, including Cornish Brie. For the more adventurous, there’s Stargazy Pie, who hails from the aforementioned Mousehole. It consists of baked sardines with fish heads sticking out of the crust as if they are looking at the sky. Maybe not for everyone.
There is even a Cornish pasty museum which is located in Mexico. In the 1820s, hundreds of Cornish miners were transported to the southern Mexican towns of Pachuca and neighboring Real del Monte to help revive the stagnant silver mines. They found success and became popular among grateful citizens, especially after introducing football to the country, with Pachuca becoming Mexico’s premier football club.
They also introduced Cornish pâté, which made its way among the locals. Pasta making has since become a big business in Pachuca, although Mexicans have adapted the dough to their liking, adding chili sauce, refried beans and chicken.
The close ties 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.
Mouse Hole Memories
One of the first books I ever read is set in Cornwall. Enid Blyton’s Five go down to the sea really caught my eight-year-old imagination as the four children and their loyal dog Timmy went on adventures involving smugglers, secret tunnels and rough seas. A few years later, in 1962, I was there with my parents, based in St Ives, for our annual fortnight vacation. We haven’t encountered any secret tunnels.
My dad insisted on visiting Mousehole simply because he was tickled pink by the name. It is also a lovely place and we went around the sightseeing drinking one of these clotted cream teas in a cafe overlooking the harbor. Fortunately, Stargazy Pie was not on the menu.
First, or maybe last
We made the compulsory trip to Land’s End, England’s most westerly point on the wonderfully named Lizard Peninsula. It was extremely windy and standing on the cliff watching the waves crash over the rocks below, I half expected to see the remains of a shipwreck or at least a few surreptitious smugglers.
On our way to Land’s End we passed an assortment of pubs, cafes and shops all claiming to be the ‘very last’ such establishment in England. We stopped at the First and Last Inn in Sennen Cove, which claims to have been a “haven for smugglers and wreckers since the 17th century”. They don’t do that sort of thing anymore, of course, although I swear I saw Long John Silver sitting in a corner.
Kick in the bucket
There are fascinating pubs and inns in Cornwall, many of which are steeped in history, usually involving smugglers. One of the most famous is the Jamaica Inn on Bodmin Moor, which was the title of a Daphne du Maurier novel and 1939 film. Jamaica Inn, by Alfred Hitchcock. Sounds like a strange name for a pub on a dreary Cornish moor, but it is believed to originate from two members of the powerful Trelawney family who were governors of Jamaica in the 18th century.
More intriguing is the Bucket of Blood pub near Penzance. Two centuries ago, the owner pulled a bucket from the adjacent well to find it full of blood. A search in the well uncovered the source of the blood, a murdered smuggler. Definitely the place to order a “Bloody Mary”. After all this, it seems appropriate to conclude with the popular Cornish phrase, “Giss on!” (Stop talking nonsense!).
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