It Really, Really Depends on How You Say It

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Day 8, Saturday, Sept. 10: Intrigued by a billboard on Route 28, Linda suggests we stop at a local bakery in Wakefield, Michigan. She wants to try a pastie.

(Interjection from the mission linguist: The pasties we’re talking about are pronounced past-tees. We are not talking about the items pronounced paste-tees. You’ll understand the distinction later.)

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These.

We park in a side gravel lot and clomp into Randall Bakery, a homey place with scuffed tables and old cafeteria chairs that’s instantly familiar and inviting. Big glass cases hold scads of baked goods, the real thing, not the boxed Entenmann’s stuff at the Safeway.

Pasties are hamburger-sized meat-and-potato pies with origins in Ireland and Cornwall, Great Britain. Immigration brought them to Michigan, where they remain popular, a part of state lore.

I’ve never had one, but I remember Bill Bryson writing about them in The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America. Bryson, who lived in England for years, finds a pastie seller in Michigan and eagerly buys one. He hasn’t had one since moving back to America and can’t wait to try it; he takes one bite and sadly puts it back in the bag and throws it out. He never tells the hopeful seller, though.

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I scrawl in my notebook as Linda looks over the rolls, turnovers, cookies and other items. She talks to the woman behind the counter, who’s originally from Poland, lived in Chicago for a while, and owns some rental property by the lake.

The pasties look good when they arrive, but I’m aghast to see they have onions, which I’ve hated since forever. I’m more disappointed than Bill Bryson. But it’s really good once I extract the offending vegetable, through intensive mining operations.

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Not these.

So we finish our pasties and suit up and by this time Randall’s is starting to fill with locals coming in for a late lunch. We wheel away toward Duluth, but I sorta get stuck on the dichotomy of pasties, the food, and pasties, the adhesive nipple coverings required for strippers in gentlemen’s clubs.

That’s where precise pronunciation comes in. I suppose it would be possible to order a “paste-tee” from a bakery in the risqué part of town and the waitress would say, “well, okay,” and start to unbutton her shirt. At least it wouldn’t come with onions.

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3 thoughts on “It Really, Really Depends on How You Say It”

  1. George… Being a full-grown Yooper (as I spent 20 of my formative years in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan), I know all about pasties. I like a good pasty (the correct spelling for a single “meat pie”) and make the best pasties according to my husband. We always ate pasties with ketchup while my downstate friends ate them with gravy. I would never ruin a pasty with gravy!

    1. The ones at Randall Bakery didn’t need any accompaniment at all. We ate them plain. And the crust was soooo flaky. … The turnovers and cookies were great, too, and the cookies were wonderful even after being toted around Ontario for several days. (We ate ’em as desserts or with a cup of tea. Perfect.)

      1. Ketchup on pasties doesn’t mask anything, it actually enhances the flavor! You will have to try it next time. Everything about Randall Bakery sounds good! Food can as much a part of the adventure as the sights and sounds.

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