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Pasties: Some Questions Answered

Cornish Pasty

If you’ve taken a drive along Highway 2 in or near the U.P., you’ve likely seen signs boldly notifying you PASTIES SOLD HERE, but unless you’re a local resident, that probably has raised some questions for you.

How do you say it? First things first. It’s important to learn how to pronounce it, lest someone thinks you’re talking about a completely different kind of pasty. So repeat after us. Past. E. The first syllable has a short a, as in past, present, future.

So what actually is a pasty? Traditionally, pasties consist of beef and potatoes, lightly seasoned and enclosed in a baked pastry. Miners from Cornwall, England, who settled in the Upper Peninsula in the 1800s brought this utilitarian meal with them for sustenance on long workdays in the mines. Various ethnic groups who settled in the area (particularly Finnish miners) adopted the pasty and put their own characteristic spin (such as subbing in rutabagas for potatoes).

So what’s appealing so about the pasty? In today’s world of avocado toast and unicorn kale harvest bowls, what place does the pasty hold? It might be the no-nonsense quality of the meal that echoes the simple grit and humility of U.P. dwellers. Perhaps the appreciation of something so regionally and culturally specific culls a cult following. If you’re curious what makes the pasty so enduringly popular, we think you better head up to our region and taste a pasty for yourself.

Where do you get a pasty? To fuel a Pictured Rocks kayaking trip, head to Muldoon’s Pasties in Munising. If you’re visiting Marquette, you can choose from Jean Kay’s Pasties & Subs, Crossroads Restaurant & Lounge, or Lawry’s Pasty Shop. Before you embark on a hiking trip in the Porcupine Mountains, try Syl’s Cafe in Ontonagon or Joe’s Pasty Shop in Ironwood. But if your upcoming travel plans don’t take you further north than Wisconsin, you’re still in luck. Try Joe’s Pasty Shop in Rhinelander, where the pasties are perhaps more eclectic and cosmopolitan than the traditional variety. The wide selection of pasties at Joe’s—ranging from the traditional and Cornish pasties to a southwest chicken in whole wheat crust, a Greek pasty, and even a pizza pasty—is par-baked, so you can enjoy a pasty piping hot from your own oven back at the cabin or at home.

It’s no question: you should try a pasty. The only questions that remain are which of the great pasty shops you’ll try first and (more controversially) which is your condiment of choice: ketchup or gravy?

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