We're delighted to welcome Ann's Pasties to our Deli lineup at Spoke & Stringer this year! Ann's journey to opening her very own Pasty company is truly inspiring, read on to find out how it all began...
All of the women in my mother’s Cornish family traditionally made pasties.
I learned to make pasties in an emergency, I was summoned by my mother, Hettie Merrick, a professional pasty-maker, to a Breton agricultural fair, where demand was dramatically and unexpectedly outstripping supply at a stall mother had set up. At the end of a day of pasty-making, I could crimp them as fast as my mother, which was the perfect confidence boost and eye opener into the fact that there was a business to be had producing a good Cornish pasty.
Soon afterwards I began making pasties for my neighbours, who’d bring gifts of fresh fish they’d caught or vegetables they’d grown, and who treated my living room like a waiting room, sitting around gossiping over cups of tea if the pasties hadn’t come out of the oven yet.
Inspired by the response, mother and I started selling our wares from a stall at the nearby market town of Helston. We soon found business good enough to graduate to a shop in Porthleven. But when juggling family and pasty shop became too much, my husband transformed the garage of our house at the Lizard into a pasty kitchen, where I was able to crimp with one eye on the family.
The business has since flourished, so much so that my son Fergus has stepped in to help keep up with the demand! The family recipe lives on through Fergus who makes a pasty so good even mother approves!
The pasty is the national symbol of Cornwall. Pasty myths and legends abound. Nobody can quite pinpoint when pasties originated, but there’s a letter in existence from a baker to Henry VIII’s Jane Seymour, saying “…hope this pasty reaches you in better condition than the last one …”.
Eighteenth century accounts from up-country travellers to Cornwall tell of labourers bringing up their families on a diet of vegetables baked in a barley dough in the ashes of the fire. A West Briton report in 1867 tells of the subsistence level at which the miners lived and reveals their great dependence on flour. Many of these early writers expressed surprise that both children and adults looked reasonably well nourished on what they considered a very poor diet. Then, as now, the pasty had its detractors, but as a complete meal in itself it found a place in the hearts and stomachs of the Cornish who are proud to claim firmly that the pasty ‘belong’ to them.
Over the centuries pasties played a staple roll in the diet of the Cornish. However fishermen never took them to sea “It’s bad luck to take a pasty on board”. When fishermen set sail, they leave their pasties ashore. Miners would leave a little piece of pastry for the spirits, in the mine, that would lead them to a load and it is said that the Devil stays out of Cornwall because he’s afraid he’ll get baked in one.
Pasties are now an important part of the Cornish economy. Tourism, here, is big business now a days and nearly all visitors want to sample the iconic dish. Many tourists find their way to my shop as they have either read that Ann’s Pasties are good or they have been told so!