Wednesday 2 March 2011

Cornish pasty - by name or nurture?

Visual Athletics Club: Gull Friend

Last week the Cornish pasty received Protected Geographical Indication status - this mouthful means that it now sits alongside the likes of Champagne wine, Parma ham, and Melton Mowbray pork pies, all of which bear the "official mark of quality awarded to regional products with specific characteristics and taste produced with traditional methods". This in essence is a branding exercise but also an accreditation and recognition of the importance of locality. Some may call it nationalism or terroir, but for a fiercely proud nation, dignifying the pasty with its Cornish status, is significant.

However, even in Cornwall all pasties are not equal. The pursuit of an authentic and tasty Cornish pasty is, as with most things food orientated, the result of a mixture of tenacity and serendipity. The perfect pasty is a thing of beauty and delight - the browned pastry that literally melts in your mouth, yet remains strong enough to retain the integrity of the carefully seasoned meat, potato, swede and onion.

The synaesthesic experience of sitting on the harbour side, with ever watchful gulls flying overhead waiting for an opportunity to swoop and dive upon the unsuspecting and relinquish them of their carelessly brandished oggie. The more knowing keep their pasty safe and out of sight within its paper bag, taking surreptitious mouthfuls, relishing the warm and comforting combination of pastry, meat and veg.

The pasty belies its true complexity. Its constituent parts may be simple and unadorned but to truly credit the title of Cornish pasty requires the touch of a master baker and few are more deserving than S. H. Ferrell and Son on Fore Street, St Ives.

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