Greensburg native brings a taste of Britain to Pittsburgh
The pasty, one of Britain's great portable foods, has arrived in Pittsburgh.
When Greensburg native Chris Johnston returned home after a dozen years working in London, he brought with him his love of British foods, particularly the pasty.
Pronounced with an "a" as in fast, the pasty is a savory, hearty, half moon of meat- and vegetable-filled flaky crust that's long been a staple in British workers' lunch pails and on pub menus.
It's also the featured item at Blighty, Johnston's stall in the Pittsburgh Public Market in the Strip District.
"I've been to 65 countries and eaten a lot of food," says Johnston, who lives in Moon with his wife, Maria, and their children, Grace and George. "This is the kind of food I like."
Pasties go all the way back to the 11th century, says Johnston. But the sturdy, filling hand food grew in popularity in the 19th and 20th centuries with British workers, particularly those who got their hands dirty, such as Cornish tin miners.
As they worked below ground, the tin miners' hands would get coated with arsenic, Johnston explains. The crust served as a convenient handle that allowed the miners to eat the middle and throw the contaminated outer ends away.
Blighty offers a variety of imported British food items in tins and jars such as Marmite and Branston Pickle.
Johnston creates other take-away items that include sausage rolls and desserts such as Bannofi Pie, a concoction of bananas and English toffee in a pastry shell.
"But the big seller is pasties," says Johnston. Half of his customers are British. The remaining half is divided between people from Upper Michigan peninsula where copper miners and lumberjacks made them part of that area's food culture and Pittsburghers, who Johnston says, mistake them for calzones.
Six varieties are available from the classic Cornish -- filled with tiny cubes of beef, potatoes and root vegetables -- to The BBC, a black and gold filling of black beans and cheddar that Johnston developed during this year's unsuccessful drive to the Super Bowl championship.
"They're reasonably cheap," says Johnston. "For $8, they weigh over a pound. With a salad, they could be dinner for two."
Pasties are convenient and quick, he says. Because the pastry crust contains no yeast, it microwaves well, making it a fast-food option for an office lunch or dinner on a busy night.
His longterm plan is to widen Pittsburgher's exposure to pasties with food carts at special events and on Downtown street corners. He hopes to interest grocers and other food merchants in carrying them in their stores.
Meanwhile, Johnston can be found behind the counter at Blighty inside the Pittsburgh Public Market, 1640 Smallman St., Strip District. Hours: 10 a.m.- 6 p.m. Fridays, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. Sundays. Details: 412-567-3737 or www.facebook.com/pages/Blighty/134242006634096 .
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers film session: Harrison on the field often
- Steelers are vowing to fix the costly penalties, lack of self-discipline
- Mental health facility won’t take Franklin Regional stabbing suspect as patient
- Body found in Allegheny River near Clemente Bridge
- Crafton men attacked in their home
- Prosecutors float possibility of jail time for former Justice Melvin
- Fundraising under way for Indiana County newborn struck by stray bullet
- Somerset County man arrested after loaded gun found at Baltimore airport
- At least $100,000 in appliances stolen from new homes around Western Pa.
- Gunfire plagues New Kensington
- Baldwin boys soccer team bolstered by strong international influence