I never expected to become a Cornish pasty-maker. My only previous catering experience was waitressing in a vegetarian restaurant in Notting Hill, West London, over 30 years ago, to help me through art school. I’d never even made a pasty till about 20 years ago, even though it’s something, which all the women in my mother’s Cornish family traditionally did.
I learnt in an emergency, I was summoned by my mother, Hettie Merrick, a professional pasty-maker, to a Breton agricultural fair, where demand was dramatically and unexpectedly outstripping supply at a stall mother had set up. At the end of a day of pasty-making, I could crimp them as fast as my mother, which was the perfect confidence boost and eye opener into the fact that there was a business to be had producing a good Cornish pasty.
Soon afterwards I began making pasties for my neighbours, who’d bring gifts of fresh fish they’d caught or vegetables they’d grown, and who treated my living room like a waiting room, sitting around gossiping over cups of tea if the pasties hadn’t come out of the oven yet.
Inspired by the response, mother and I started selling our wares from a stall at the nearby market town of Helston.We soon found business good enough to graduate to a shop in Porthleven. But when juggling family and pasty shop became too much, my husband transformed the garage of our house at the lizard into a pasty kitchen, where I was able to crimp with one eye on the family.
Whist crimping away we started to attract some welcome press attention. Jenny Agguter praised our pasties in an article for the Mail on Sunday and we were snowballed into a lot more media attention. Rodney Bewes is another celebrity/ friend who has always praised my pasties when talking of his love for Cornwall. In fact Bewes is a Cornish surname,so no wonder Rodney loves a pasty. I have featured on radio and television several times and met a lot of interesting people through making our national dish and become a little famous.
Although it’s great to have media notice I am most thrilled when I get a thumbs up from a Cornishman (or woman).