“What’s in a name?”

23 April 2018, 14:49 pm
Fine Food by Charles Campion

The weeks following the British Pie Awards are always a time for reflection

This year there were 963 entries from 180 pie makers and the event moved back to the newly refurbished St Mary’s church in Melton Mowbray. There was much to ponder as the high quality, and large number, of entries made judging a pleasant ordeal.

However, the list of pies jostling for honours contains enough quirks and ambiguities to delight the most scrupulous pie-pedant. For openers there is the pasty question: should a pasty qualify as a pie? The pasty is portable and has a filling encased on all sides by pastry… and that sounds very like a pie. Pasty judging at the awards has always been a ticklish subject – going back to the year when the title Champion Cornish Pasty was won by a bakery in Devon.

This year the pasty class was particularly hard fought. The judges awarded 10 Bronzes, five Silvers, three highly commended, and the Class Champion which was made by Rowe’s Cornish Bakers. But things are never straightforward, just when you are imagining a traditional pasty with skirt steak, spud, turnip and white pepper, Rowe’s throw a curve ball and the winner is a pasty that you are unlikely to be familiar with – the Penang Chicken Pasty.

Perhaps all pasty makers are deranged bakers who try outlandish combinations of taste and texture to stop themselves getting bored during the off-season when tourists are in short supply? Other exotic pasties to get awards included the Apple & Sultana pasty from the Boghall Butchers, the Chunk of Devon Cheddar and Onion pasty, the Dinosaur Pasty from Mud Foods, the Pulled Lamb Pasty from Born and Bread Bakehouse, and Ginster’s Moroccan Vegetable Pasty.

Sadly, the long tentacles of the Brexit debate have slithered over pasties and several other lines of premium food and drink. We are accustomed to blaming the worst European bureaucratic excesses on “Brussels”. We are puzzled by the forest of initials – PGI (stands for Protected Geographical Indication), PDO (Protected Designation of Origin), TSG (Traditional Speciality Guaranteed) – but now we should worry about what is to become of these accreditation schemes when we finally make our exit.

It took the hard working and food-loving folk in Melton Mowbray the best part of a decade to get European recognition for the magnificent Melton Mowbray Pork Pie. We have an impressive range of food and drinks which currently have “protected status”. How would it be if their hard-won reputation meant there was a market place for Arbroath smokies but made in Belgium? Or perry made in Germany? Or Herdwick mutton under a French label?

We were not always so sensible about the value of brands and their impact on trade. Cheddar cheese is made in dozens of different countries in Europe and beyond. Now cheesemakers in Somerset no longer have the right to call their cheese after their location, and all because interlopers named their cheese after the Cheddaring process they used.

We can only hope that the benefits of ‘Protected Status’ survive what is going to be a very gruelling time, and one that will make arguments like “when is a pasty not a pasty” fade into insignificance.

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