The Cornish pasty may be endemic to South West England, but it’s also a revered delicacy thousands of miles away in Mexico. So, how did the humble Cornish pasty end up so far away from home?
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It’s thanks to mining that Mexicans were first introduced to the Cornish pasty, where it’s now regarded as a staple dish by locals.
During the 1820s, skilled miners from Cornwall were recruited to Mexico to regenerate the mines that got damaged or flooded during the Mexican War of Independence. In particular, Cornish miners settled in the state of Hidalgo in central Mexico, especially around the mountainous town of Real del Monte.
The Cornish miners introduced many new things to Mexico including football, wrestling and Methodism, but most famously, the miners’ favourite snack, the Cornish pasty, left its biggest mark on local communities.
The Cornish pasty
Considered as the national dish of Cornwall, the Cornish pasty is an important part of Cornwall’s food economy and has enjoyed Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status since 2011.
This baked pastry snack, filled with turnip, diced potato, beef skirt and onion, became a hit with miners since it was a complete meal that stayed warm for a long time. With crimped edges, the pasty was also easy to hold, and if it got dirty, the crusts could be thrown away.
Pasties in Mexico
The Cornish pasty quickly caught on in Mexico, where wives of Cornish miners would teach their Mexican maids how to make the dish. The Cornish even brought turnips over to Mexico, which the locals had never seen before.
Even when many miners returned to Cornwall, and the last mine in Hidalgo closed in 2005, the Cornish pasty still lives on in Mexico, albeit in a different form.
Mexicans refer to the Cornish pasty as a paste, and its ingredients’ list is rather different compared to its Cornish cousin. In fact, there are various types of fillings used in paste today. Popular options include pineapple, apples, tinga (shredded meat in chilli), refried beans, sweetened rice, savoury chocolate sauce, and blackcurrant and cheese. Fish pastes are common during Lent. Where traditional pastes are made to replicate the Cornish variety, a dash of hot sauce is rarely omitted.
Paste shops can be found throughout Hidalgo, but none more so than in Real del Monte, dubbed the paste capital of Mexico. Boasting more pastes per capita than the rest of the country, many bakeries lining the town’s cobbled streets are adorned with English flags and images of Cornwall.
To reinforce the Cornish heritage of the pasty, the Cornish-Mexican Cultural Society twinned Real del Monte with Redruth in Cornwall, in 2008. The Mexican town is also home to the world’s first Cornish Pasty Museum, where you can even make your own paste. As a museum with Cornish connections, it’s no surprise to discover that the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall have paid a visit.
For three days every October, since 2009, Real del Monte also plays host to an International Pasty Festival, which involves music, dance and eating pasties, of course.
It’s not just Mexico where the Cornish pasty has become a staple. Variations of this savoury dish are also enjoyed in the USA, Argentina and Australia.
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