Which reminds me…hot or cold?
There’s another longstanding debate on this point, too. Did most workmen eat their pasties hot or cold? To the best of my knowledge, the answer is hot. One of my pasty mentors of old spoke about her father the field worker, who was so insistent about pasties, she was forced to run over-field for a mile each day to get it to him. True or not (“I was forced to walk five miles in the snow just to get to school each morning!”) it makes for a great story.
There are several tales about how miners dealt with pasties, many of which, I’m convinced, are apocryphal. Like the one about them heating their pasties on shovels held up over their head lamps. That one was featured prominently on Good Eats and I suspect it’s bunk. How dirty would that pasty get? Not to mention covered with poisons like arsenic. I’m not saying it never happened, but…I’m dubious.
The fact is most miners ate their pasties hot because there were ovens on the grounds of most mining operations. These functioned just like the communal ovens that were commonplace all over the British Isles and Europe, even into the 20th century. Lacking home ovens (which weren’t available until the mid-1800’s, and not common in Cornwall until probably well after that), most housewives simply brought the unbaked pasty to the work site and baked it there.
Their other alternative was to bake them at home in a cast iron pot over their home hearth and run it over, which was obviously common too. On delivery, it’s said that some miners tucked the big pies into their clothes to help keep them warm on cold days (it’s a least plausible). They could be warmed later in the company oven if need be. But what’s wrong with a cold pasty, I ask you? My bet is that like box lunches, that’s how more than a few of them were consumed.