Food and Drink

The Paste Problem

I’ve had two pastes experiences in two days, and I’ve been left a little confused. I shouldn’t be confused. Mexican pastes are descended from Cornish pasties, a historical left over, along with football, of the presence in Mexico of miners from Cornwall, the most south westerly of England’s counties. If there is one thing I shouldn’t be confused about, it is this topic.

The traditional Cornish pasty is a meat and vegetable filled delicacy. Suitable for the job – feeding miners who will spend most of their waking hours deep underground with something substantial. But meat and veg isn’t that much fun. Mexicans are fun. Which is why pastes in Mexico come with all sorts of fillings. Apple, creamed rice, different types of mole, chicken and anything else that springs to the bakers mind.

In both Mexico City and Real del Monte, the bakers told me that Mexicans pronounce pastes differently to the English because they just couldn’t get their tongues round the Anglo way of saying things. In Mexico the ‘pa’ is as in ‘pan’ or ‘pad’. The ‘-ste’ is the same as in England – ‘stee’. Us Ingles, they tell me, pronounce the ‘pa’ as in ‘pay’. A pay-stee.

Do we? I don’t. It’s ‘pa’ as in ‘pan’ in England too. I corrected them. But it’s been playing on my mind ever since. Have I got it wrong? The English teacher, expert in pasties, unable to pronounce his own language properly? I’ve been here too long. The more I say ‘pay-stee’ the more it sounds acceptable. But I’m still not sure. I should be sure. I used to sell a few hundred of them a week in my various service stations in the UK.

Further research and opinion is required. Perhaps I’ve just heard the Mexican way for so long it’s become embedded in my mind. Perhaps the pronunciation in England has changed since the days of the Mexicans miners. Perhaps it’s just the Cornish and their weird ways, doing everything differently to everyone else in Britain. They do after all profess themselves to be a separate country, with their own flag and their own language. Albeit a now officially extinct language according to the UN.




9 thoughts on “The Paste Problem

  1. My Blackpool friends always pronounce it with a hard “a” — as in “pay”. But my Oxford friends always pronounced the “a” as if it were an afterthought — just too difficult to do anything but slur. But I suspect you have gone native on more ways than that.


  2. Kim G says:

    Perhaps English has changed since you left England.


    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where we have our own thicket of local accents. As does Rhode Island.


    • Good question Don! I had to look it up, because come to think of it, I have no idea what the fundamental difference is. Turns out, or so I’ve read, that the filling of a pasty should not be cooked prior to being wrapped in the pastry. If it is, then it is actually an empanada. That would actually make most of the pastes on sale, especially ones with mole fillings, empanadas….

      We’re being conned!


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