Eating My Words: Harry Potter’s Cornish Pasties

It’s time for the latest installment in the series Eating My Words, wherein Rebecca Peters-Golden recreates dishes from various esteemed pieces of literature. Today we take a trip to England, to the magical world of Hogwarts as well as the real-life world of mining towns in Cornwall.

When I first read the Harry Potter series, it wasn’t the magic that most appealed to me, or even the boarding school setting—it was the feasts. You know, plates and plates heaped with tripe, black pudding, cockroach clusters, spotted dick roast chicken, shepherd’s pie, mashed potatoes, and my personal favorite, the Cornish pasty. It’s a favorite meal of Ron Weasley and his family too:

“Oh…okay,” said Ron. “Couldn’t remember all the goblin rebels’ names, so I invented a few. It’s all right,” he said, helping himself to a Cornish pasty, while Mrs. Weasley looked stern, “they’re all called stuff like Bodrod the Bearded and Urg the Unclean; it wasn’t hard.”
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

harry potter food
The Cornish pasty (pronounced “pass-tee,” not “pay-stee”) originated in Cornwall, England, in the 12th century and made its way to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan when Cornish miners immigrated there to work in the copper and iron mines in the mid-19th century. Having grown up in the mitten myself, I’ve long appreciated the pasty. So, when I embarked on the month-long project of cooking one instance of food from a piece of literature each day last January, I decided that the time had come to master my beloved pasty—and vicariously visit Hogwarts in the process.

The form of the pasty—hearty filling in a thick crust—is awesomely practical. Cornish miners would take one to work each day, eating half of the often two-pound pasty early in the day and saving the other half for later. For this reason, miners’ wives would impress their husbands’ initials into the end of the pasty’s crust so that they could distinguish their half-pasty from their co-workers’. They reheated them on shovels with candles—badass!

Further, the pasty’s crust served as a kind of handle so that miners could hold and eat their food without having to find a source of clean water to wash their hands. They would then throw these crusts away, believing that such an offering of food would pacify the ghosts with whom they shared the mines. Good thing, too, since the miners’ hands would have been coated not only in dirt, but also in arsenic, a poisonous byproduct of the tin mines.

Although my hands might be dirty, since I do not have to worry about giving myself arsenic poisoning, I relish the thick butter crust rather than throwing it away. Still, the Cornish were really onto something—I’ve wrapped one of these suckers in foil and put it in my bag at 8:00 am, walked around, taken the bus, and generally been clumsy, and found it in perfect condition when I took it out of my bag to eat at 1:00 pm.

cornish pasty

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  1. Ariel says

    My favorite British food! I LOVE these, I wish I could find a good store to buy them at…Thanks for this, will have to try it.

  2. says

    Well, can’t say I’d eat this since it has meat inside, but I would consider filling it with something like a variety of veggies…or is that cheating?

  3. NoPotCoooking says

    I had a friend who ran a cafe in New Orleans who served these- several varieties. They were fantastic. Thanks for the recipe.

  4. says

    I just made these tonight for a dinner in which I was supposed to bring something from my heritage… WOW they were good! My great grandparents came from Cornwall, but I never knew them and have never known anything about my ancestors’ culture. Sure am glad I tools chance and tried this recipe! Lovely!


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