Upon crossing the Mackinac Bridge, the observant tourist realizes that the U.P. specializes in four things:

1. Fudge
2. Smoked Fish
3. “Party” Stores
4. Pasties

Okay, so fudge and smoked fish are pretty obvious, but I had no idea what the last two even were.

Oh, man.

Okay, so a “party” store is pretty much a quickie mart. They usually have a gas pump and copious amounts of booze and ice (which I supposed in the U.P. constitutes “party” supplies).

Some of these stores might be qualified as “general” stores, as they have bait and tackle as well as groceries and various necessities. One I came upon had an old fashioned gas pump out front, as well as many curious bags of vegetables and fruits. I mean these were like 40 pound bags of yams and apples. And I thought…hey, that’s weird, people would never eat…

OH GOD THEY’RE BAIT FOR HUNTING BAMBI.

Okay, so for some people that’s a party too.

ANYWAY.

Pasties. Pa-sties. Not pay-sties. Not pah-sties. Pa- as in package or pantry.

I walk into this bar and ask the nice lady about their homemade pasties, because I’ve seen signs for pasties damn near everywhere, and I have never even heard of them. She corrects me as I ask her about pay-sties (which are what you cover your nipples with when you’re afraid of a wardrobe malfunction) and tells me that they’re basically meat pies.

MEAT PIES, YOU GUYS. THE U.P. IS FULL OF DELICIOUS SAVORY MEAT PIES!

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When it arrives, steaming and covered in gravy, I salivate a little and then dig in. I love that this particular pasty came with french fries, as if your meat and potatoes needed more fried potatoes with them. The bartender said they are made fresh daily and that the cook grinds the meat and cuts in local “rutabaggies,” which I am to understand means rutabagas.

The rutabagas seem to be awfully important, because when the next customer walked in she made sure to ask me how the pasty was, and did it have rutabagas in it.

Okay, so check mark, pasty with rutabagas.

Apparently the U.P. is big on pasties because miners traditionally carried them to work for lunch because they were both hearty and portable. Apparently the gravy is optional, as ketchup or mustard or pickle juice are condiments many consider better.

When I asked how they were made, the bartender replied that it’s like making a pie crust, but when you roll out the dough, you place the heap of ingredients in the center, and fold it up like a turnover.

Here is a recipe:

(makes 6 servings)

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup shortening
1 cup cold water
1 pound boneless round or chuck steak (sub whatever meat you like)
2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 onion, chopped
1/4 rutabaga, cubed (THIS IS IMPORTANT)
1 carrots, diced (this is optional)
salt and pepper to taste
6 tablespoons margarine

In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in water until mixture forms a ball. Shape into a ball, wrap in plastic and refrigerate.

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine meat, potatoes, onion, rutabaga and chopped carrots. Season with salt and pepper. Divide dough into six pieces, and shape into balls. On a lightly floured surface, roll each ball into a 6 inch round. Place approximately 1 cup of filling on one half of each. Dot each with 1 tablespoon of margarine. Draw the other half of the pasty over the filling. Crimp edges to seal in filling. Prick with a fork and place on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 1 hour.

Tah-dah! Now you know.