Thursday, May 30, 2019

The SconeLady Goes Pasty

She is very good at this sort of thing, my daughter-in-law. With a trip to Cornwall on her horizon, she thought creatively ahead, and considered: how great would it be to learn Cornish pasty-making from the people who brought the world pasties? A great question! She searched for, and found, a Cornish bakery with a Cornish baker willing to teach. This woman's name is Marion, and her shop is called Portreath Bakery, where people come learn to make pasties each Wednesday. She signed us up!

Our taxi driver was great and had a friendly Cockney accent we recognized, but did not always understand. He wanted to know about California (which is always a good middle-ground thing to talk about), and American politics (which isn't). But we're getting used to it.

We three weren't the only people interested in learning Cornish pasty-making. A bus load of Rick Steves travelers from all over the US joined us in Marion's back kitchens where we learned of her history, her shops, her discovery of Gluten Free baking, and her decision to welcome the public in. Then, we baked. 

We each received protective gloves and a rubber apron, and learned that this would be a contest, rather like the British Bake Off program. Whoever made the best looking pasty would receive a tall box of chocolates! Everyone became instantly more keen.

She then gave us each an oval of raw pastry dough to gently stretch out, just a bit. We learned to pile the ingredients up so they would not squish themselves out and into the hot oven, smoking and burning. "Crimping" the dough properly is a real science: you "Pull, Tuck, and Pinch. Pull, Tuck, and Pinch". If we wanted to have the winning pasty and receive a tall box of chocolates, we would need to "Pull, Tuck, and Pinch". 

Each pasty contained:

*beef (skirt)
*salt and pepper (lots!)

It was really quite funny to watch everyone going at their pasty. There were about the same number of men there as women, and you could tell which side of the divide was struggling the most. But they shouldered on, ending up with pretty nice-looking Cornish pasties in the end. You could see it was going to be a hard bunch to judge (I'm sure it was the chocolate).

When it came time for Marion to judge, a hush fell over the group. Marion's assistant brought out the steaming hot specimens, and we watched as she examined each with solemnity, struggling to come to a decision. And - can you believe this? - the SconeLady and another lady from the Rick Steves group both won! The reasons for this are complicated, but it was such a surprise that I could not quite take it in. Marion directed me to her shelves to pick out a 'cake' to take with me as a prize. You don't have to say 'pick out a cake' twice, to the SconeLady.

It was a terrific success. We lingered, but finally said goodbye and carried our hot Cornish pasties out to meet our worthy cab driver.

"We would like to catch the 12:53, if we can..." I ventured, as the aroma of hot pasty filled his car.

There are no 'if's' to a Cockney-Cornish cab driver, who became amazingly adept at talking and driving at speed. Although there were moments of doubt, we did, in the end, make it.

And the pasties? Delicious! We ate them once they had cooled a bit (having heard that we would steam ourselves to death if we jumped in too soon). I do think they were the best pasties I have had. The crust was perfectly flaky and tasty, and the filling superb. It really does pay in this world to have a beautiful, funny, and smarter-than-average daughter-in-law.

See you along the way!
the SconeLady

1 comment:

  1. You captured this experience perfectly with your delightful writing! It was fun to see you and your family's shared enthusiasm for this marvelous lady and her gifts of bringing pasties (and her philanthropic businesses) to the world. I was secretly glad you and your clan won the Grand Prize (though a mite envious). I was one of the Rick Steves' tour members, and baking at Maid Marion's was a highlight of my trip (other than the fabulous scenery Cornwall and the Cotswolds provides!). I spoke with you briefly and we exchanged emails. Hope to contact you at length "soon".