Pasties Pasties Pasties (but not what you think)

Trip Start Feb 03, 2006
Trip End Jun 20, 2006

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Thursday, June 1, 2006

We left Puerto Escondido the day before a rather large named storm hit the Pacific Coast (yes, it was centered up by Acapulco, but maybe it was still.....EXTREME in Puerto Escondido). The small and previously dry drainage ditch next to our hotel reached kayak-able levels the day before we left, in about 3 minutes time. It was a good time to get off the coast. Besides, what fun is the beach in the rain?

From PE, we took the LOOOOOOOOONG way back to Oaxaca--about 12 hours on the bus, versus 5.5. We did this because, well, to call the 5.5 hour trip winding would be kind. Leslie was not a fan. The bus back was tiresome, but it gave Leslie a chance to experience another form of Mexican transport (for the record--she took taxis, a van, a first class bus, second class busses, and a tuk-tuk, which a 3-wheeled motorized thingie based on the front end of a motorcycle).

We had 2 days in Oaxaca before Leslie's plane left, and we spent them gathering souvenirs, going to rug towns, and the long hassle of getting things mailed back to the US. In Teotitlan de Valle, we visited one rug shop where they showed us cochineal bugs (used to make red dye). They live on cacti. The weaver's son gave one to Andrew and then told him to smash it. It popped like a ripe berry, with a surprising amount of shockingly red guts, I guess. The addition of lime juice turns the red dye to a bright, almost neon orange.

In our absence, the teacher's protest turned....large. They set up tent cities ranging about 3 blocks in every direction from the zocalo. There were hundreds of tarps shading the streets, usually about 5' high. People and their belongings were strewn everywhere, and getting anywhere in that area was not unlike negotiating an obstacle course. Andrew caught one (black, at night) string between his eyebrows and the top of his glasses, cutting the bridge of his nose enough to bleed and sending his glasses flying off into the street. In addition to setting up their tent city, the teachers from time to time took over government owned enterprises and shut them down, namely gas stations and the airport. All the taxi drivers seemed really annoyed.

Yesterday Leslie got on her plane (we hope--we haven't heard from her yet) and we got outta Oaxaca. The bus ride to Mexico City was stunning, and a lot more green than our last visit a few years ago (in December 2003). From the DF, it was a short but smelly bus ride to Pachuca, the capital of Hidalgo state.

Why are we here, you might ask. To answer your question, we will have to give you a short history of the pastie. No, you sicko not that sort of pastie. It is pronounced "pass-tee", not "paste-e".

The pastie we speak of is a durable pastry shell filled, traditionally, with a mixture of beef, potatoes, cabbage, and gravy. It originated in Cornwall, in the UK, as a convenient lunch pail item for hungry miners. These Cornish miners eventually went to work in mines around the world, bringing their pasties with them. Today, in the US, pasties can be found in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and in Butte Montana (also in Anaconda and one store in Missoula, and there is a company in Montana that sells them frozen). They are also found in mountainous British Columbia, notably in Nelson, and in Australia. We have been aware of all this for some time, and Andrew has become quite enamored of the pastie. Imagine our surprise to learn that pasties could be had in Mexico. Pachuca is an old silver mining town, and the Cornish brought their tradition here, as well.

Ha! but the tradition has been perverted, or has evolved if you would rather. We have eaten pasties filled with mole verde, mole rojo, pasties hawaiiano (with sausage and pineapple and cheese), pasties filled with chicken and pepper strips, "traditional" beef and potato pasties so spicy it makes you sweat, and even pastie filled with rice pudding. (big-time yum) Today, we will try the chorizo and bean pasties, flan pasties, and whatever other strange variations we can find. Thousands of Cornish housewives are turning in their graves.

The thing is, though, pasties are FLOURISHING here, whereas you can only find them in a handful of places in Butte or in Nelson (we haven't been to the Upper Peninsula--yet). Here, there is at least one pastie shop (they spell it pastes) on every block in the center, and there is heated debate about which is best. It is really interesting, perhaps fodder for an article.

The other strange thing is how much Pachuca resembles Butte (okay, Cement block houses on the hill don't much look like Victorians on the hill). But, both towns are built on the hills they mined, and their downtowns are a strange mix of beautiful old, cut stone buildings and "modern" 70s and 80s schlock. Oh, and while Butte has a giant sculpture of the virgin Mary up on the mountain above it, Pachuca has Jesus.

If we can escape our pastie delirium, we'll be off this afternoon in search of a concrete orchid garden. Time is running short in Mexico, and we're moving fast.
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James Weinstock on

Thanks for sharing some great information about pasties

andrewandjacque on

Thanks. What is your interest? How did you stumble across this? If you are interested in pasties, there are a few scholarly articles that I an direct you towards.

Justin on

This is very fascinating. I was just in the frigid Upper Peninsula where Pastie are a staple food, it is so cool to find out that the same food is found in sunny Mexico!

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