By Cathy Cooper, Coordinator of Dietary and services for the Holy Cross Diocesan Center
Photography by Monica Organ
The beautiful orange leaves, cool sweatshirt nights and the sound of UW-L football echoing through my neighborhood only mean one thing: PASTIES!!!! Pasties are a very old recipe for a meat and vegetable pie. Apparently, the Scandinavians brought this type of packable meal to the United States and they became very popular in the Upper Peninsula when the miners would pack them into newspaper and take them into the mines for a warm lunch.
I was blessed to be born of a Norwegian mother with a knack for Scandinavian pastries and a Polish father who could make a mean sausage, but pickled everything else. I can still see my parents in the kitchen cooking together and the sight of sheer love, delight and happiness. My parents kept pasties and so many other traditions alive in our family. They met right before my father was drafted during World War II. My mother came from a very stern Norwegian Lutheran family and my father was Roman Catholic. I never really appreciated all of the sacrifice my parents went through “to keep the faith.” My mother was not only a convert, but raised her family in the Catholic faith. Her parents disowned her for a short time, but, of course, came around to love and support my father. I am not sure I know many people today with such conviction that would sacrifice so much to keep their faith. Faith and tradition are not just empty words, they contain years and lifetimes of love, truth, sacrifice, endurance and service.
Every Fall, my parents would invite over my uncle and aunt (godparents to all of my siblings and me), send the kids off to school and start rolling out pie crust. Dad and Uncle Roger would be dicing and cutting meat along with assorted root vegetables. They would also peel and slice a bushel of apples. Mom and Aunt Carly made the Bloody Marys, of course, with all of our own homegrown tomatoes and peppers. I am not sure what the entire day consisted of, but I do know that when we returned after school, it looked as if a food truck collided with a produce cart in my kitchen. Our parents would be laughing, reminiscing and sometimes disagreeing; the air was filled with the sounds of Johnny Mathis, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. We did appreciate the fruits of their labor. Our home was filled with the cool fall breeze and aroma of pasties and apple pie.
I still keep the faith and many other happy childhood traditions alive in my own family. Every last Thursday of September, I take a day off work to stay home and make pasties for our ever-growing family and friends. Our city has the most amazing Oktoberfest torchlight parade. All of our local marching bands, businesses and visiting festivals deck themselves in the most elaborate light displays. After dark, the streets are filled with people, food and music. I sometimes wonder why after 34 years I still use one of my vacation days to cut, dice, roll and chop into exhaustion. I usually roll out more than 75 pasties. I question my effort, until we are sitting along the torchlight parade route with all the people I have been blessed to share my life, enjoying the night. I can feel the love of my parents and godparents with us even though they left this earth before my children were born. My children and now their children will remember the love and sacrifice of our ancestors and hopefully continue to keep the faith, along with so many of our “traditions,” alive.
1 ½ lb diced sirloin
1 diced onion
1 small diced rutabaga
4 diced potatoes
1 diced stalk of celery
1 stick of butter
½ cup of milk
A generous amount of salt and pepper to taste
Brown the meat and vegetables in the butter and add the milk, salt and pepper
Make or buy enough pie crust for 2 double crusted pies and roll into 12 small circles. (approx. 4 pie crusts) Use your favorite family pie crust recipe or use store bought for easy convenience.
Place each circle on a sheet of foil large enough to fold over and seal the pasties after they are cooked
Divide the filling amongst the 12 circles, forming half moons; seal the pastie and cut vent slots on top of each
Bake in a 350-degree oven for 35 minutes or until golden brown
Remove from oven, seal in the foil and place the hot packets in a blanket-lined cooler to stay warm for hours