The Cornish Pasty
The following account is kindly contributed to The Cornish Pasty by Mr Henry "Oggy" Trelissick, a fellow pasty historian and Member of the Ancient Order of Pasty Antiquarians ...........
"My curiosity about pasty culture and lore and was, I think, first aroused when, just as I was developing the teeth to attack a pasty with real enjoyment, I was abruptly removed from the land of the side crimp and secret ritual and returned to Plymouth. Here the top crimp was king and orchards of young trees were to be found growing quite openly on allotments all over the City. (The occasional feral tree can still be found in the hedges of Central Park). The 'Dig for Victory' campaign had a lot to answer for, not least the spread of self-sown trees to the back yards and gardens of areas such as Devonport and Swilly. However, food was in short supply and I suppose allowances must be made.
The upshot of all this promiscuous breeding was the appearance, after the War, of the surprisingly prolific sport - the Doodni. Perhaps because of cross-pollination by South East Asian Samosas (qv), brought back as souvenirs by troops returning from fighting the Japanese, this variety proved largely self-fertile, thus removing at a stroke the major drawback to pasty cultivation: the need for careful hand pollination. The doodni's rise in popularity in the region's major centre of population led to a collapse in traditional pasty husbandry and much hardship in West Devon and South East Cornwall. In the West, however, local loyalties and the tourist trade maintained the viability of the crop. Needless to say, perhaps due to ignorance on the part of growers, the ritual and tradition of pasty culture was not practised on this new cultivar - perhaps not the right word to apply to an entity with such variable characteristics. However, the doodni did have a one or two constant features; the crust had a peculiar softness, requiring constant care in harvesting and handling; and the extraordinary moistness present in the doodni's 'meat'. This latter feature was responsible for the rupture of many a carelessly handled bag as its oozing contents soaked through the soft crust and weakened the paper, scattering the Doodni's contents in the gutter without the need for preliminary mastication.
[by the way, and before I forget, have you seen Bartleby and Swain's "The Spread of the Industrial Paper Bag and the Decline in Morbidity due to Black Mouth and Runnygut in 19th Century Devon and Cornwall."? It's in the current "Acta Historia Peninsula". My copy arrived this morning.]
With its ease of cultivation, the doodni remained the premier pasty cultivar in the Plymouth area until the fortuitous appearance of Endopterygota adipatophagus - the Turkish Croust beetle - which decimated the city's orchards, allowing a gradual return to a more healthy pre-war pasty culture. It is believed that this pest was brought into the country as a result of the increased popularity of package holidays to the Eastern Mediterranean, possibly concealed within a smuggled kebab (qv).
It is believed that the survivors of the Croust beetle plague were to be found maintained under controlled conditions in a giant shed near Callington, where, despite much local opposition, modern methods had produced the GM variety, the Ginst. This GM variety has better keeping qualities and greater resistance to further pest attack.
As you have probably noted, I have omitted all reference to the Perranzabuloe Riots, when a group of fundamentalist growers from the religious heart of pasticulture attacked the representatives of a Bristol merchant, Seth Brain. These had acquired slips of local cultivars and were intending to commence intensive cultivation in England. The excesses committed by the rioters in their search for the 'mole' who had supplied the slips and their ultimate failure to recover all the material do not reflect well on the County.
Work on a brief outline of my proposed monograph on the worldwide distribution of the Oggianophyceae is progressing and I hope to let you have it soon."
Webmaster - More about the Croust Beetle can be found HERE
Re: the Devon claim to inventing the pasty; I think a sound case could be made for their inventing the man-made item. Obviously they envied the Cornish their access to the pasty groves and made little pastry 'dolls' for comfort and to try to steal some of the magic of the real thing. Perhaps they thought pasty consumption would make them better tinners.
Webmaster - My thanks to Oggy for his scholarly contributions to the pasties record for The Cornish Pasty.