Cornwall fights for icon

15th February 2008 at 00:00

The French have their tarts and the Germans their sausages. Only the Italians have managed to find a national food which is actually healthy (or so it's said) - olive oil. Apparently, the more olive oil you consume, the longer you live. A bit like Guinness.

English cuisine, of course, is not known for its health-giving qualities. The English breakfast, steak and ale pie and fish and chips are all high on the list of things we must avoid if we wish to live a long (if miserable) life.

But in a country where regional sensitivities are more fashionable than national pride, the latest target of the health nannies, the Cornish pasty, has more chance of being defended. Enter Cornwall College, which is standing up for the West Country delicacy with the kind of defiance not evident since Churchill.

One lecturer finds all this state diet advice a bit hard to swallow and has spoken out after the Food Standards Agency announced the delicacy that was once vital sustenance for tin miners is in its sights. It is warning the public about saturated fats, which are found in high levels in the pastry and meat.

Pat Sargeant, who teaches Cornish studies at the college, said: "It's like telling the French that they should get rid of Champagne because it's alcoholic. It was the original takeaway food that miners took down the mines. Pasties were full of energy and full of flavour and each one was individual." Mr Sargeant proudly points out that pasties were exported with the mass migration of miners and are now found around the world.

He said: "It's a cultural icon. It's things like the pasty that make Cornwall unique."

Meanwhile, the Cornish Pasty Association is hoping to give Cornish pasties the same protection of Champagne - so they can only be called "Cornish" if that is where they are made.

That would mean more status for Cornwall College as a centre of pasty excellence.

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