A Miner’s Wife

My great-grandmother was married to a miner. What a woman. She washed the coal dust from her husband’s blackened jeans with her own hands, and she could cook to keep pace with a miner’s appetite. Grandma says her daddy ate apples by the bushel, and he took several biscuit sandwiches to work every day.

Copper miners in Michigan were hungry too, but they typically carried pasties (pass-tees) for lunch. Their wives baked meat and vegetables in pastry dough, then wrapped the small pies in cloth or paper to keep them warm. After Cornish immigrants brought the dish to Michigan in the 1800s, pasties became an icon of the Upper Peninsula.

Pasties

Meat and potatoes—the classic foundation of a hearty meal—sound like perfect fuel for physical labor. But pastry dough is fragile (there’s a reason people usually serve pie on plates).

In my mind, these ladies should have brushed up on their sandwich-making abilities (generally considered an essential part of the domestic female’s skill set). My great-grandma was a sandwich innovator—her husband didn’t like sliced bread, but he loved biscuits. Again, what a woman!

Still, pasties have the charm of tradition. My mom grew up in Michigan, and she loves these—for reasons that have nothing to do with portability.

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Stone Soup

I am always in the mood for soup—especially in winter, when I’m desperate to warm myself up from the inside out.

Soup

In the dining hall, I always make a beeline for the soup zone, and at home, you can catch me finishing leftover chili for breakfast.

Speaking of leftovers—this is a great way to use them. Soup is the contortionist of the kitchen—you can twist it into whatever shape you like best.

Or, if you’re a stranger in a stingy town, you can use a rock, plus whatever your gullible benefactors have on hand.

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