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Pasty Power

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Pasties are like politicians. You can never be sure what lies beneath their smooth exterior. But while the perfect politician almost certainly doesn't exist, the perfect pasty - a joyful and succulent combination of locally grown potato onion and swede, moistly combined with best quality meat and a soupcon of pepper and herbs, encased in a robust parcel of pastry - is alive and well in Devon.

Your best bet of getting your hands on one of these beauties is to do your pasty shopping at farm shops or small bakeries. There are plenty of these in Devon, allowing you to give supermarkets and petrol station shops (how can that be right?) a very wide berth in your quest for pasty delight. And should you be tempted to purchase anything other than fuel or basic foodstuffs at one of these brashly lit and soulless establishments, take it from me, my dears, the pasties you will find there are not worthy of the name. My advice to anyone seduced by their garish wrappers and synthetic microwaved fumes, is to swiftly bin the lot, and go in search of the real thing.

But if you think the word pasty is synonymous with the word Cornish - think again. Archivists have recently discovered a Devon based reference to the pasty in records dating back to 1509 - well before references to it in any other county. At the time of this remarkable find, Dr Todd Gray, chairman of the Friends of Devon's Archives, who unearthed the data, said, 'It has been a great joy for me to have discovered that pasties may have originated in Devon.' Unsurprisingly, Cornishmen everywhere have hotly refuted this and the debate rages on. However, the Cornish cause hasn't been helped by the result of a recent British Pie Awards contest to find the best Cornish pasty - which was won by a company based in Devon.

In the meantime, the difference between a Devon made pasty and one hailing from the neighbouring county is immediately obvious. The Devon variety has the pastry crimp running along the top, while the other is crimped along the side. You might also like to know that Westcountry folklore dictates that this crimped part should be left uneaten, to appease the souls of dead mariners.

Other pasty eating regions include US regions Eastern Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Arizona and California, the Mexican state of Hidalgo and various parts of Australia. Demonstrating clearly that unlike politicians, the pasty constantly transcends geographical and political borders.