The cuisisne of the upper Midwest

The cuisine of kings

When you ask if they serve pasties in about 95% of the country, they ask you what pasties are. The thing that comes to mind for some is the thing worn by dancing women, but no, it’s not that either.

Pronounced “past – tees” is a cuisine that was first introduced to the United States in the mid-1800’s and if you were raised on them, you were hooked on them.

It’s not quite a hot-pocket although some have thought perhaps that those were pasties, and in fact, were invented by two Jewish Iranian brothers who immigrated to the United States from Tehran. They actually came to the United states almost 140 years after the pastie arrived from England.

According to ahealthiermichigan.org, “The pasty came to the United States when Cornish miners immigrated here in the 1840s. The dish can be dated all the way back to 1150 in England. The pasty gained popularity with miners because it was easy to bring into the mines, kept them full throughout the long work days and could stay warm up to 10 hours. If the pasty did become cold, miners could easily heat them up by placing it on a shovel and warming it up over a heat-lamp candle. A pasty once started a mining fire when a miner forgot about his pasty warming and the lard caught fire.”

My great-grandparents who immigrated from Croatia and Slovenia in the late 1800s were well acquainted with the food and was a weekly staple for the miners in Northern Minnesota who worked the iron mines on the Mesabi Range. Since many of my relatives were miners, our family was raised on meat, potatoes, onions and carrots in a puff pastry shell. Back in those days they cooked with lard, but for health reasons that has changed in the last 70 years.

It was there that my great grandmothers made pasties for their families and the miners and the tradition continued with my grandmother, my mom and then eventually my sister Rene Bock who lives in South Carolina and carries many of our old family recipes with her.

“Once mining ended in Europe the pasty lived on through the Finns and Italians,” according to ahealthiermichigan.org. “When the Mackinac Bridge opened in 1957 allowing tourism to the U.P. for Lower Peninsula Michiganders, pasties started to be sold in restaurants. Governor George Romney made May 24 statewide National Pasty Day in 1968 to celebrate the bridge between the Lower and Upper Peninsula cultures. While the pasty spices differ between recipes and nationalities, something they all have in common is potatoes and onions. The traditional Cornish pasty has sliced vegetables while the evolved Yooper pasty has diced vegetables. The correct way to eat a pasty is from the top down, so if you don’t finish the two-pound pastry you can save it for later. The U.P. pasty is eaten with ketchup only, but if you want to identify yourself as a tourist you can ask for gravy.”

Some of my family were hardcore and forbid the use of ketchup, but I am a new generation of DeLap.

When I came to Wyoming, as I usually do when I am missing being a kid in Wisconsin or my mom’s cooking, I go in search of a store that may be selling pasties. Thrifty Foods owner, Jodie Axford suggested I go to the local internet to see if anyone has heard of or made pasties.

Our Dance Wyoming teacher Jessica Schreiner knew about pasties, but her mom Annie Hiiva-Millan who lives near Green Bay, Wisconsin who was a Facebook friend took it as a challenge to leave no man without a pasty.

She had plans to come and visit Jessica and her husband Kael Schreiner during fair week and I got a text saying that she would be bringing me that precious upper Midwestern cuisine for me by plane.

Halfway through a grueling fair schedule and one day finding myself very discouraged and hungry and sporting an attitude of great concern, I got a text from Annie which read, “Your precious cargo (pasties) is off the plane in Denver and on its way to Wheatland!!!”

It’s true. Three exclamation points and heaven was just a few hours away. After plans were made to meet at the Platte County Agriplex, the precious cargo was exchanged Saturday, Aug. 6 at approximately 1:06:22 p.m.

She bought me pasties from three different northern Michigan/Wisconsin pasty restaurants (yes, they are on every corner up there) and little did those restaurants know, but their pasties were being airlifted to the waiting arms of very “hangry” man in Wyoming.

Although I haven’t had time to actually eat one yet, I have six meals to look forward to and will eat the first on Monday that was made in Florence, Wisconsin and was sold by “The Pasty Oven” on Highway 2 in Quinnesec, Michigan.

According to pastys.com, “It has long been my dream to bring pasties to the rest of the world."  These are the words of Gene Carollo.  It's a dream of a little boy to bring the world something he truly loves.  The "dream" has all the qualities you grow to love when you try a Pasty Oven Pasty.  Gene was drawn to the kitchen by the warm wholesome smell of hot pasties in the oven.  He relished the great taste of his mama's own version of this meat and potato tradition.  The fact that these hearty meals were unique to the mining and immigrant culture of his area made him proud to be part of the USA's strong history.  His pastys were developed here in the U.P., the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where Gene still lives in the same family home of his childhood.”

Gene Carollo comes from my generation of Midwesterners who enjoy eating our traditions and savoring every memory that comes along with each mouthful. I also just found out that Gene ships anywhere!!! Yes, Three exclamation points. This of course will save my hero Annie Hiiva-Millan from future luggage costs and having to hand-carry a cooler. If you want to order pasties you can go to pastys.com.

As for me…  Monday night. My apartment will be smelling just like my childhood home. Thanks Gene. Thanks Annie. Thanks Mom.

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