Taking the Cornish out of the Pasty

The Cornish Pasty Association (CPA) may be pleased, but little corners of Cornwall around the globe seem dismayed and perplexed, and these include expats in Limoges and the Dordogne.


Contributor 'alap-p' on the French Vie forum took this photo of elusive Cornish pasties in a shop in Limoges.

Who would have thought that after nine years of campaigning, the apparently innocuous decision to award the Cornish Pasty a “Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status” might reverberate anywhere east of the Cornish border?

In implementing its decision mid-March, Brussels was perhaps unaware that this unassuming export has a following and indeed a proud tradition as far away as Australia, the USA and in some of the more Celtic parts of France.

The PGI award means fans of the hot snack have a choice; from now on there are pasties and then there are Cornish pasties, in the same way as there is ‘champagne’ and ‘sparkling wine’, (well, ok, ok!)

Of course in France terroir and Appellation contrôlée are well understood, but even so the Bretons are backing the Brits and other expat communities in a show of surprise at the EU move. Down in Australia, ABC reported “Makers of Australian pasties have been assured they can still use the term ‘Cornish’ despite a trademark ruling by the European Commission”. Under the headline ‘Cornish ruling worries Aussie pasty makers’, ABC reported “The Yorke Peninsula region of South Australia holds a Cornish festival annually, but has worries it will have to find a new name for its centrepiece food by May.”

According to David Rodda of the Cornish Pasty Association: “A genuine CPA-endorsed Cornish pasty made in Cornwall is D-shaped and crimped on one side alone, while a chunky, lightly seasoned filling comprises uncooked minced or chunks of beef (not less than 12.5%), swede, potato, and onion with a light seasoning. The casing is golden, savoury, glazed with milk or egg and must retain its shape after being slow baked. No artificial flavourings or additives are allowed.”

Here in France Cornish pasties definitely have a small if select following even among the French and especially the Bretons and come highly recommended on the Marie Pierre blog — even though her pasty picture turns the miner’s lunch into something resembling a Venetian mask.

The official definition of what comprises a “Cornish pasty” means it is now protected under the same EU regulations that give France sole rights to the term “champagne”, and the Portuguese to the word “port” for fortified Douro wines, and ranks Cornwall’s pasty on the same culinary level as Camembert cheese.

So what are pasty makers beyond the Cornish geographical boundary going to do to satisfy punters hungering after a chausson de Cornouailles.

Reno and Roulla Raynos have been selling Cornish pasties on markets and in their Dordogne delicatessen for more than two years to the delight of locals and expats alike.

Now, writes Gavin Reditt, they have learnt officially they are supposed to drop ‘Cornish’ from the description of their vegetable and meat filled pastry or face the wrath of Euro-crats who police the ‘Cornish Pasty’ protected status trail.

Roulla says she initially added ‘type’ to all her signs so her savoury pastry delights currently sell as ‘Cornish-type-Pasties’ but, she admits, that doesn’t quite have the same ring of authenticity.

“One of my customers – Peter from Blackpool — has been telling me for the past year that I can’t call them ‘Cornish pasties’ as they are made here in France. Well now it looks as though his wish has come true,” she said.

Making the mid-March announcement Alan Adler, CPA chairman said: “By guaranteeing the quality of the Cornish pasty, we are helping to protect our British food legacy…Today’s announcement does not stop other producers from making other types of pasties but they won’t be able to sell them as ‘Cornish’.”

Ah ha, a get-out clause? Maybe, says Roulla, who is considering rebranding the couple’s version of the famous savoury as Corniche pasties. That would certainly give them a true French flavour and even help boost sales in the local community where people will no longer have any trouble pronouncing the name.

(Indeed the association with Grande Corniche on the Cote d’Azur, not to mention the famous 1970s Corniche coupé, the convertible version of the Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud, can only improve the caché of this tasty home-made Dordogne delight.)

Corniche Pasties are set to gain high status thanks to this Rolls Royce Corniche convertible. Eat your heart out Cornish Pasty.

Reno and Roulla have been running their shop ‘Pains Speciaux Raynos’ in Le Bugue – Dordogne (24260) since 2009 and over the summer they also sell pasties, speciality breads, home made cakes and other delicacies on market stalls at villages around the area.

Roulla says they sell very well and her French customers love them because they are “hot and very filling”. Roulla has baptised her Cornish sorry Corniche culinary speciality the ‘smiling’ pasty because of their shape and says they are very popular with expat Brits and other wandering souls who have tasted them “back home” (in Australia, South Africa, the USA) and Brittany as this Festival Interceltique-2009 report in Le Telegramme makes clear.

When they first set up shop in the Dordogne, Reno and Roulla, who are Greek Cypriots by origin, thought the idea of selling Cornish pasties would go down well with “the large local expat population” and a sizeable influx of holidaymakers over the summer. They have been delighted by the response and have built up a loyal following for their pasties.

Much to do about the Corniche pasty.Photo: Gavin Reditt

But now that Cornish pasties are protected – the couple are rethinking strategy. They wouldn’t be alone. Other expat Brits also sell Cornish pasties on market stalls in areas where their compatriots gather (see Look out for Karen on the local markets. She sells English cakes, Cornish Pasties and her sausage rolls are the best in France!)

Roulla says she hasn’t heard anything from the officials who police the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status but “I’m staying a step ahead of them”.

Rebranding as a Corniche pasty … “originating in Cornwall but now a ‘little bit French’ ” … could be a shrewd move. Who knows, in time Reno and Roulla might even apply for their own Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status, after all the raw materials they use, all come from local producers so terroir would be a big factor if they did apply for an Appellation d’origine contrôlée designation for the Corniche.

Watch out Cornwall, the Dordogne could soon overtake you on the pasties front.

Story: Ken Pottinger
(Additional Reporting by Gavin Reditt in the Dordogne)

    Here are a selection of reports showing how far the Cornish pasty has spread:

Its Celtic so the Bretons like it.

The armchair generals on this discussion forum worry about other delicacies, Lancashire hotpot anyone?

A blogger’s view of life in France deprived of a regular dose of Cornish pasty

If you really hanker here’s a French website offering you a Cornish pasty mailorder…
… or buy some from this advertiser for 2 euros
…and if you want to get hot under the collar about them, join in the fun here.

Arguments also rage here and here and here about the true Cornish pasty

This Paris boutique offers them by mailorder

Here’s the official USA guide on where to buy

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