Not many foods have the iconic status that the pasty holds in Cornwall. Traditionally taken 50 fathoms from grass, in tomblike dark or the crowded, fluttering, death-winged shadows of a shared candle as a million tons of rock seem to breathe and shift overhead like leviathan, stirring the mine timbers to groan and knock; it is the meal of heroes and the stuff of legend.
Men would tell their crust from another's by touch, wrapped in the smothering dark the crimping more familiar than a loved-ones hand, and leave the last corner of pastry for the Knockers favour. Always there on the edge of hearing, beyond the pressure-wracked oak beams and the thunder of the pumping engines, following their own seams, singing on holy days, the Knockers could be friends or devils, living between heaven and hell as they atoned for their trespasses. A gift of food, the most succulent end of a Tinner's pasty, steeped throughout crust-time in the still warm juices of the fresh cooked filling, could mean the difference between a Knocker guiding his pick to a rich seam of ore, or a thin rock wall holding back a thousand gallons of floodwater, bursting through suddenly in the final dark.
No two people will agree on a pasty recipe, and the diaspora of Cornish miners means there are now more regional variations than mines in Marazion. It is said the Devil never dared cross the Tamar, for fear of becoming a filling in a pasty. Nevertheless, his agents are abroad in Callington, and their name is Ginsters.
The English, godless and unabashed, will put carrot in a pasty, and crimp it on top. But even their black hearts baulk at describing a pre-cooked sludge of mechanically recovered meat and reconstituted vegetable matter, machine-pressed into a cardboard casing impregnated with hydrolysed vegetable fats and wrapped in a plastic bag as a 'proper pasty'. It is an abomination before God: no more a pasty than a homunculus formed from the fluids of an alchemist's loins is a man. They who traffic in it shall be cast into the pit.
Ginsters. Agents of Satan, sorry, Samworth. Supplying drunks, students, motorway service stations and fat bastards overpriced, nasty crap to microwave since 1977. Come the harrowing, you shall be first up against the wall, my birds.
Although I suppose they are not too bad if you heat them up in a conventional oven.