National Pasty Week’s (also called Cornish Pasty Week) annual week-long celebration begins in late February each year and honors the city of Cornwall’s favorite food — the pasty. This year, it takes place from February 27 to March 4. Traditionally a savory recipe, this British-origin (from Cornwall) dish is now both a sweet and savory dish, depending on the filling inside the shortcrust cover. The Cornish pasty — the original version — is so popular that more than 120 million are made each year.
History of National Pasty Week
We cannot be sure of where and when, exactly, this delicious dish came to be, but do know it has been around since the 1300s. Older cookbooks — “Le Viandier” (circa 1300) and “Le Menagier de Paris” (1393) — contain many recipes for the pasty. The word is of French origin too and comes from the Mediaeval French word ‘paste’ or ‘pasta,’ which refers to a pie containing any ingredients.
The pasty was a common feature in the 16th and 17th centuries, becoming something of a favorite for the Victorian England elite class. Tides had turned by the 19th century, and this dish was now preferred by common families across the U.K., especially in Cornwall. A pastry case filled with veggies was a cheap way to fill stomachs; meat was often avoided as it was too expensive for the common person to afford.
Why the immense popularity in Cornwall? Famous for generations for being a mining town, Cornwall was full of settlers who worked in mines, and they would often take this cheap and easy meal down with them. This all-in-one food stayed warm and fresh for longer and didn’t require miners to climb back up the mine shafts to eat their lunches — important considering miners were paid according to the ground they covered. The less time spent going up mine shafts to eat, the more time they had to work, and could potentially earn more money.
The pasty became the standard fare for miners — called ‘crib’ or ‘croust’ in Cornish — its popularity influenced the ‘D’ shape of the dish too. Food historians think the crisp crust was created so miners could hold on to the pasty with their grubby hands without contaminating the food itself, and toss the leftover crust away.
According to popular tales, the discarded crusts didn’t go to waste — small mischief-making goblins who would otherwise cause trouble for miners, ate this crust as offerings and therefore behaved themselves.
By the mid-1800s, mining had declined in Cornwall, and many families moved to places that provided the work they were accustomed to. Miners — and their pasties — found their way to Australia, South Africa, and even the U.S. Subsequent immigrants picked up the pasty tradition and made it their own.
Now, pasties are made in many parts of the world and have their own versions — the Indian ‘samosa,’ the Chinese ‘shaobing,’ the Spanish ’empanada,’ and the Eastern European ‘pirog.’
National Pasty Week timeline
The romance poem “Erec and Enide” by Chrétien de Troyes mentions the pasty, which is eaten by people from what we now call the Cornwall region.
The elite love the pasty, and there is a letter from a baker to Henry VIII's third wife, Jane Seymour, hoping that his pasty makes it to the royals in better condition than his last one.
After a nine-year campaign by the Cornish Pasty Association, the traditional Cornish pasty is awarded Protected Geographical Indication status by the European Commission; traditional Cornish pasties need to be made in Cornwall (with the traditional recipe) to be labeled as such.
The Cornish Pasties Association — an organization that celebrates the amazing pasty — creates a celebration for the pasty, hosting events all over Britain to honor Cornwall’s favorite dish.
National Pasty Week FAQs
Why are pasties popular in Michigan?
It is thought that Cornish miners — the most populous consumers of the pasty — brought this snack with them when they migrated to the U.S. for work. They made their way to mine copper deposits in Michigan, leading to this dish’s popularity in this region, among other places.
Where are pasties popular in the U.S.?
Pasties are popular in many old mining towns in the U.S., and places where the Gold Rush occurred, including Michigan, Milwaukee, Grass Valley, and Nevada City.
What is the difference between a Cornish pasty and a normal pasty?
The biggest difference is that the Cornish pasty has to originate in Cornwall, and the other is that the meat in this pasty is put in its wrapper raw and baked together.
National Pasty Week Activities
Make a traditional Cornish pasty
Bake yourself and your loved ones a traditional Cornish pasty, which only contains beef, potato, Swede, onion, salt, and pepper. Find the exact recipe online and wow people with your baking skills.
Introduce pasties to people around you
Instead of devouring them alone, enjoy pasties with friends and family. Find your favorite versions, and try them out at home.
Host a pasty competition
Make ‘em sweet or make ‘em savory, however you do it, show off your baking chops in a friendly pasty-making competition. Encourage others to go crazy with the fillings, and come up with your own amazing recipes.
5 Fun Facts About Cornish Pasties
It is lucrative for the Cornish economy
In fact, the Cornish pasty contributes around 6% to the country's economy, by selling this dish to hundreds of people across Britain every day.
“Oggie oggie oggie”
This famous rugby chant came from the Cornwall miners — their wives would yell “oggie, oggie, oggie” (pasties were also called ‘oggies’) from the top of the mine shafts, and the miners would yell back with “oi, oi, oi” to indicate they wanted a pasty thrown down at them.
No pasties on this ship
Fishermen didn't want this food on board their vessels, believing them to be bad luck.
The World Pasty Championship
Held at the end of National Pasty Week, this event seeks out the best pasty makers from around the world.
Pasties in famous books
This humble food has appeared in plenty of literature, most notably in “Robin Hood,” Chaucer's “The Canterbury Tales,” three plays by William Shakespeare, and more recently, in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series.
Why We Love National Pasty Week
The pasty is an iconic food
And not just because practically every street in Cornwall sells this snack; the pasty is also a point of pride for cultures globally, and has its iterations too.
It's got amazing traditions and a long history
As if the decades of rich history weren't enough, the pasty gradually conquered the hearts (and tummies) of miners around the world — so much so that it remains a vastly popular dish even today.
It’s delicious and convenient to eat
You can fill them with practically anything and it will stay warm for hours. Plus, pasties have a long(ish) shelf-life, are easily eaten without any food implements, and can be transported with ease.
National Pasty Week dates