Monday, April 21, 2008
Yooper food down under
The pasty, an iconic Upper Peninsula survival ration, was also exported to New South Wales by immigrant Cornish miners.
An air letter postmarked March 16 arrived today from June Allen, a reader in Fairy Meadow, Australia, a suburb of Wollongong about 1 1/2 hours south of Sydney. It had been sent to Robert Hale Ltd., my United Kingdom publisher, thence to my literary agent in New York, and finally to me. Quite a bank shot.
And what do you know? The pasty -- the "portable potpie stuffed with diced beef, potatoes, carrots, rutabagas and onions about the size and shape of a softball and four times heavier" that is all by itself one of the major food groups in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan -- is a staple for Aussies as well as Yoopers. Ms. Allen writes:
"I read A Venture into Murder and enjoyed it very much. This is the first book I've read which is set in Michigan so that was new and interesting for me.
"Steve [Martinez, my deputy sheriff sleuth] eating a pasty made me laugh. I'm 76 and pasties have always been part of my life as a treat. Today I could walk up the road and buy one from any bakery hot and ready to eat -- or frozen from Woolworths.
"This pasty has the same history as yours -- Cornish miners -- and the same ingredients, but a different shape. We begin with a circle of flaky pastry about the size of a man's hand outspread. The filling goes on one half, then the pastry is folded over, the edges crimped to make a handle or sometimes a plait of pastry is added. It looks like a solid capital D."
(Truth to tell, Yooper pasties are also D-shaped as well as softball-thick. We wash ours down with Molson's while Aussies doubtless employ Foster's for that purpose.)
Small-town New South Wales, Ms. Allen went on to say, "is a wonderful place to live, rather like Porcupine County."
Thank you, Ms. Allen, and I hope you invite me for a pasty supper someday.