In 2003 my family made its first foray into the upper Great Lakes region of Northeast Minnesota and Michigan's Upper Peninsula (UP), beginning our long, continuing affair with the shorelines of the greatest lakes. Possibly the first sign welcoming us to the area hinted at "pasties ahead, 1 mile." Soon the byways were peppered with an assortment of sometimes shambolic roadhouses, neon "open" signs beckoning us to "Get your pasties here." My first thought was of tassels and cheap burlesque. But reality was in truth as tawdry as a senior's night checkers game at a nudist colony. We had stumbled upon a heritage dish, mining's contribution to the world's palate, the pasty (PASS-tee).
The pasty is perhaps the main raison d'être for an otherwise disrespected vegetable, the rutabaga. Other principal components of the standard pasty are beef, potato, onion and spices wrapped in a crimped pastry to form a semicircular pocket sandwich that is then baked to a golden brown. In the Upper Midwest, "spices" refers exclusively to salt and pepper. The pasty is right at home there. Its most scandalous aspect regionally is mild disagreement over the spelling of the singular item, some vendors preferring "pastie."
Variations on the standard pasty for the adventurous crowd might skip the beef altogether or include extra potato, and ketchup is an almost shameful side transaction not discussed between merchant and customer. Hoping no one will see, I've furtively grabbed a few courtesy packs of the condiment like a nervous youth in the prophylactic section of a drugstore. Gravy is a damnable abomination reserved for tourists.