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What is this Michigan Delicacy “Pasty” You Speak of?

Not to be confused with the nipple covering “pasty”

Two pastry-like, pasties with one cut to show cubed potatoes, carrots, and beef spilling out.

The Upper Peninsula food pasty, pronounced “pass” “tee” is not to be confused with the body (nipple) covering pasty pronounce “paste” “tee”. Through the beauty and complexity of the English language, we get an all-encompassing word for multiple items.

I grew up thinking the food pasty originated in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. While it is true this is a very popular “Yooper” delicacy it actually has been documented as far back as 13th century Europe. To be even more specific, it was enjoyed by British nobility with a range of fillings.

Ben Johnson, author of The Cornish Pasty wrote: It wasn’t until the 17th and 18th centuries that English miners adopted this as their go-to food choice.

English miners in Cornwall, United Kingdom made this item a staple in their diet. Today this sought-after meat pie accounts for 6% of the Cornish food economy. A pasty, often confused with a pot pie, is pretty simple in its makeup. The pastry is formed around meat, a variety of root vegetables like potatoes and onions, and then folded into a semicircle. Make note of the strong outer crust in the picture above.

Erin Wisti from NPR wrote:

Photo by Harry Grout on Unsplash

This onslaught of Cornish laborers saw the pasty brought to various locations worldwide which included Australia, Mexico, and the United States. The portability and the practicality of the caloric intake they provided made it the ideal food source for miners. The pastry pocket not only protected and contained a variety of ingredients, but it could also keep ingredients warm, and often the miner’s body over a lengthy period of time.

Today, the pasty is a celebrated food item in various parts of the world but I will always associate it with trips to Northern Michigan. My family recently branched out on a few different pasty offerings which included a “meat lovers” and a “pizza version”. In my opinion, they were garbage. Something more on par with a “Hot Pocket” and not something I truly care for. I think I will stick with the traditional from here on out.

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