No visit to the Upper Peninsula is complete without eating a pastie (pronounced “pass-tee”), a small meat pie that was first introduced by miners back in the day. As I drove east on Route 2 (the main drag across the UP), pasties were available at just about every restaurant, mini-mart, and even at gas stations (buying food at a gas station is a worthy goal for all of us, right?).
The recipe varies, but it is generally a crust that is filled with diced potatoes, rutabagas, carrots, onions and some sort of meat. It’s been described as a pot pie without the pot, and there are vegetarian options, too. A friend from the UP told me that having a pastie for lunch generally meant that you didn’t need to eat again for the rest of the day.
I googled a bit, and I learned that pasties came from Cornwall, England in the early 1850’s when the copper and iron mines were first opening in the UP (whoops, I learned some other things, too). Pasties are artful in their simplicity, and the miners appreciated a lunch that they could stick in their pockets–and a heavy lunch at that. If a pastie got cold, it could supposedly be re-heated by holding it on a shovel blade over a headlamp candle.
My pastie stop of choice was the Hog Island Country Store not too far east of the tiny community of Naubinway. The store was cash-only, as many businesses here tend to be. The owner was very friendly, something that is also quite common up here. It was a small one-room shop, and yet she had several different kinds of pasties as well as smoked fish (another can’t-miss UP delicacy).
I ordered a beef pasty and a smoked menominee and ate them on their picnic bench out front. I was feeling smugly local until I saw my reflection in the store window. Not a lot of khakis and short sleeved polo shirts up here.
While I was in the Hog Island Store, a couple from Iowa came in and asked “so what are these pay-stee things we’ve been seeing signs for?” The owner felt no need to correct her new friends. She just smiled and said “it’s what you are smelling cooking right now. I have beef, chicken, pork, or veggie. Which kind would you like?”