For this, the second installment of Menacing Menus, I bring you… something which contravenes the entire spirit of Menacing Menus, actually. Enjoy.
Terroir is a word that gets thrown around a lot in my Food class, but for good reason. No longer limited to the realm of wine–how passé–it is now used to describe any and all of those inimitable factors, from climate to cultivation techniques, that leave a unique stamp upon a particular agricultural product–indeed, define that product.
And boy, is it a nebulous term (quoth the anthropologist). For one, there are no stipulations of scale; terroir can be as vast as a region–like Champagne–or as minute as a plot of land–like Jean Pierre’s patch in the corner. In our forum, we like to talk about the possible intangible factors of terroir, the social context which is, arguably, inextricable from the soil. Suffice it to say that terroir is a fecund field for debate, which is exactly what the French Institut National des Appellations d’Origine does when it assigns protection to various regional goods. And just as the Anglophone world has appropriated the word terroir (to be fair, it is said to be untranslatable), so have we adopted the appellations, only we call them Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI). And by we, I of course mean the EU; we in the US would like to retain our right to call things by what they are not in order to push more product! To learn the slight difference between PDO and PGI and search the database (you know, just for funsies), click here.
Okay, that was a long-winded introduction for a recent announcement which has really got me exited, and that’s that the Cornish pasty has, at long last, been awarded PGI status! In the case of the pasty, terroir represents a sense of place more than of practice, though there is absolutely a technique to it. And the Cornish are fiercely proud of their iconic gift to Britain and the world.
Thanks to their new status, all pasties must now be made in lovely lovely Cornwall, though they can still be baked elsewhere in the UK. Sure, there will still be pretenders, with their stodgy pastry, bland filling, and wonky crimp, but they shall never again bear the hallowed name of PASTY!
If you haven’t already guessed, Cornish pasties are a true favorite of mine. I first had one in Bath in 2008, and it was love at first bite (wah wahhh). Not long after, I was gushing about the experience to my grandma and her friend in Devon (near to, but falling just short of, Cornwall), and she furnished me with the following brief history. For your edification:
The Cornish pasty began as a handy pack-lunch for Cornish miners. They would hold the pasty by its knobbly, crimped edge, so as not to spoil the meal with their dirty hands. When they were finished, they simply threw the crust away. (At this point in the story I am sure I had to stifle a horrified gasp; I am, and always have been, a great lover of crusts.) But the most fun bit is surely the extent to which these pasty bakers sought to encapsulate a full meal within this toothsome little shell; originally, pasties had a chamber for savory, and a chamber for sweet. That’s right, meat in one end and pie filling in the other. Have I converted you yet?
Here is the the regulation pasty, straight from the source:
“A genuine Cornish pasty has a distinctive ‘D’ shape and is crimped on one side, never on top. The texture of the filling is chunky, made up of uncooked minced or roughly cut chunks of beef (not less than 12.5%), swede, potato, onion with a light seasoning. The pastry casing is golden in colour, savoury, glazed with milk or egg and robust enough to retain its shape throughout the cooking and cooling process without splitting or cracking. The pasty is slow-baked and no artificial flavourings or additives must be used. It must also be made in Cornwall.” – Cornish Pasty Association
Spokesperson for the CPA David Rodda has said, “Receiving protected status for the Cornish pasty is good news for consumers but also for the rural economy. By protecting our regional food heritage, we are protecting local jobs. Thousands of people in Cornwall are involved in the pasty industry, from farmers to producers, and it’s important that the product’s quality is protected for future generations.”
All the more to celebrate my beloved pasty. Click here for the CPA’s traditional recipe.
… and tune in next time for a possibly-Menacing-but-maybe-relenting-depending-on-food-news-and-my mood Menu!