Pasty shops are Cornwall's answer to Starbucks. There's one on every corner, they cost about £3 and they come in endless varieties. As well as the traditional meat and potato I've tried chilli beef, pork with apple and yes, chocolate. In St. Ives I came across one shop claiming to sell “The Best Pasty In The World”. Everything in Cornwall seems to have won at least one award so I decided to challenge the typically cheerful girl behind the counter as to the provenance of this bold claim. “It was,” she trotted out, “voted the best out of 300 pasties in a competition held at the Eden Project this year.” Good enough for me.
I couldn't help imagine the controversy such an award would have kindled in the other pasty makers. Think of it. The jealousy, the infighting and sabotage that surely must rage under the crust of this seemingly wholesome, benign country event. At least I hope it does. Scratch the surface and who knows what you'll find.
So which pasty would the girl recommend? The Thai chicken. “And what awards has that won?” I asked. “None,” she said, “it didn't actually get a place this year's competition.” Since I didn't fancy eating what was officially at least the 301st. worst pasty in the world I decided to pass.
As I left the shop she girl leaned towards me over the counter, “Pasties aren't even Cornish,” she whispered, “we nicked them from Devon.” Clearly a pasty subversive but it seems she wasn't fibbing. According to that most reliable of sources, Wikipedia:
In 2006, a researcher in Devon discovered a recipe for a pasty tucked inside an audit book and dated 1510, calculating the cost of the ingredients. This replaced the previous oldest recipe, dated 1746, held by the Cornwall Records Office in Truro, Cornwall... the discovery sparked a controversy between the neighbouring counties of Devon and Cornwall.
I'll bet it did. Mark my words – there's a Tarrantino movie staring Samuel L Jackson and Denzel Washington just waiting to me made.