Grass Valley, CA
While recently visiting this once booming, gold mining town, we found this wonderful pasty shop.
To clarify what a pasty is not... pronounce the first syllable like past not paste. I happen to know this fact because my husband's mom used to make delicious meat pasties from scratch.
A Café and Shop
We arrived just after Cousin Jack's opened at 10:30 and found a woman behind the counter busily rolling out dough.
The shop and the tiny cafe next door were beginning to fill with baking smells. The shelves and counters were packed with yummy and usable sale items from imported jams and homemade cookies to aprons and teapots.
What are Cornish Pasties?
Pasties are hearty (empanada style) pies filled traditionally with beef or chicken. Hardworking tin miners in Cornwall, England (known as Cousin Jacks) often ate these hefty meals in the mines because they were as easy to eat as a sandwich.
In the 1850's many Cornish miners immigrated to gold mines in the States, bringing their hard rock mining and pasty making skills. There were many Cornish miners working in the the Grass Valley area years ago. Their wives, called Cousin Jennies, filled their lunch buckets with pasties and tea before they headed hundreds of feet underground for work each day.
So Many Choices
Don and I ordered traditional pasties, although they offered some pretty curious options of pot roast, Greek and spinach-mushroom pasties.
As our order was being prepared, the woman's husband arrived in his apron and cap and was more than happy to tell us more of the history. He was proud to tell us his wife's family had arrived from Cornwall 4 generations ago, with the pasty recipe that is still used.
Next we had to decide on dessert. We handed over a selection of cookies and pies to add to our order and asked the man how he came to the area. "I came here from Oklahoma during the depression."
He described the town when it was bustling with mining activity. He seemed eager to remember those days. "The town was literally booming from the drilling and blasting below ground!" He chuckled when we gasped at the thought of living in a town jolted with regular booms!
The husband and wife team graciously posed for a photo before we left. I'm sorry I never got their names. Surely not Jack and Jennie?
Don and I took our bag of piping hot pasties and sweet treats and hit the road.
An hour later we stopped at a park in the town of Pleasanton and had our picnic. I hated to destroy my chicken pasty by biting into it. The crust was a perfect, shiny brown with a raised letter "C" made from dough. (Don's beef had a B of course)
The still warm pasties were excellent. The pastry crust was mouthwatering and the filling was like a perfectly seasoned homemade stew. My "Jenny" sized small was perfect. Don's "Jack" sized large was more than enough! Now I'm going to hunt one more time in my mother-in-law's old files and see if I can find her pasty recipe!
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.