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Pasties: The Meaty Center Of 'Yooper' Food

Miners have hearty appetites. They work hard during cold Michigan mornings. So, when the whistle blows for lunch, it's time for a pasty.

The meat turnover was brought to Michigan's Upper Peninsula by immigrant miners from Cornwall, England, and "Yoopers" — the local population — are very opinionated about them. A pasty is a small circle of pie crust filled with meat, potatoes, onions and spices. Some have carrots. The pasty at Lawry's Pasty Shop in Marquette — voted best by the local newspaper — has rutabaga.

Brothers Peter and Mike Lawry run the three-generation family business, which has been in the area since 1946. Their ancestors worked the local mines around the turn of the century.

"I started making pasties, my brother and my sister and I started making pasties, in about third grade in the summertimes with our grandma," Peter says. "When we'd made our first couple pasties, we'd go spend the night at Grandma's house and eat our pasties and show our grandpa how we did."

Sometimes they would help their grandmother make pasties for the shop.

To demonstrate, the brothers mix meat, onions, potatoes and rutabaga in a tub. Peter shakes in spices. The mixture is scooped — or "gobbed" — into the dough. Mike folds the crust over the stuffing, then shows off his special technique to seal the pasty up.

"When I'm teaching people, I like to say it's kind of like a wave," he says. "You roll the top over the bottom — it's like a wave rolling in on shore." The braid-like crust is the part that people like to break off and dip into ketchup, Mike says.

Not too long after the pasties are pushed into the oven, a wondrous smell of onion, beef and pie crust fills the room. "It's wonderful in the morning when you're hungry," Peter says. "When you go home in the afternoon and your wife says, 'Oh, ya smell like a pasty again,' it's a little different."

"Sometimes it's funny," Mike adds, "when you go to the bank with our deposits in the morning, the ladies in there will tell us that our money smells like pasties and it makes them hungry."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Liane Hansen
Liane Hansen has been the host of NPR's award-winning Weekend Edition Sunday for 20 years. She brings to her position an extensive background in broadcast journalism, including work as a radio producer, reporter, and on-air host at both the local and national level. The program has covered such breaking news stories as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the capture of Saddam Hussein, the deaths of Princess Diana and John F. Kennedy, Jr., and the Columbia shuttle tragedy. In 2004, Liane was granted an exclusive interview with former weapons inspector David Kay prior to his report on the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The show also won the James Beard award for best radio program on food for a report on SPAM.