A Miner’s Lunch
Original Author: Kathy Evans, A&S 195 SP2012
Revision Author:

There are many small towns that surround the four cities that make up the Quad Cities, one of these small towns is called Coal Valley. Coal Valley is located south of Moline and is next to the Quad City International Airport. The village of Coal Valley was founded in 1857 as a mining and farming community (Historic 106). At one point in time there were nine different mining firms working in Coal Valley (the Past 244).These nine firms produced over ninety five thousand tons of coal in the year 1875 alone (the Past 244).Today the mines are all closed but a few traces of Coal Valley’s past can still be seen. An example would be the old mining cart that can be found outside of the new library and police station. Now it takes a lot of people to mine all that coal and since coal mining is such a hard job it is important to have a good meal to give the miners the energy they need to get through the day.
The people who came to Coal Valley to mine the coal were mostly from Wales, England, Germany and Ireland (Historic 106). Being immigrants to America they would have brought along many traditional recipes that the miners would have put in their lunchboxes. These recipes were designed to make a meal that would be filling and easy to eat. This article mostly takes a look at what a Welsh or an English miner would have put in their lunchbox. The typical coal miner would have probably had a dish called a pasty and perhaps something called miner’s fruitcake or maybe a small biscuit like dessert called a welsh cake. These items have many different variations and each family would have had a certain way they would have made them, much like every family has a certain way they make meatloaf.
The pasty is a dish from Cornwall that is a lot like a pot pie or a calzone. The Cornish pasty is a large pastry that consists of a shortcrust pastry filled with meat, onion, suet, potatoes, and other vegetables. The exact ingredients and the amounts of the ingredients will vary from recipe to recipe (Garmey 239). Most recipes use beef, pork or a combination of the two and often makes use of leaner cuts of meat (Miller). No matter what the exact combination of ingredients, which allows for the pasty to be enjoyed by many different people, the pasty helps to fill the stomach of a very hungry miner.Here is one recipe for a pasty from Great British Cooking (Garmey 239).
This recipe should serve four. Prepare a shortcrust pastry so that it is about one forth inch thick. Take the rolled pastry and cut it into six inch rounds. To make the filling take twelve ounces of chuck steak and cut into small cubes; add to the steak one finely chopped medium sized onion, one finely chopped large potato, and one finely chopped turnip or two finely chopped small carrots. Season the filling mixture with salt and pepper. Take the filling and place an equal amount of the mixture in the middle of the pastry rounds in a sausage shape. Then take one beaten egg and brush it on the edges of the pastry. Take the edges of the pastry and pinch them together and form an oval shape. Make sure that you leave a couple of slits in the pastry so that steam can escape. Place the pasties on a greased baking sheet and brush the last of the egg on to them. Bake the pasties in a four hundred degree oven for twenty minutes. Finally reduce the oven to three hundred and fifty degrees and continue baking the pasties for forty more minutes.
There are many fun little facts about the pasty. There are some who say that the reason the pasty has such a thick edge crust is so that the miner could eat the pasty while using the thick crust as a handle. Eating the pasty in this way would allow the miner to enjoy their meal without having to worry about eating food covered in the dust from the mine and ingest potentially dangerous levels of certain dangerous substances that could be found in the mine along with the desired ore (Miller). According to tradition miners would have their initials placed on the end of the pasty so that no one could claim another’s pasty (Garmey 239).
There are other things that a miner would have put in their lunch box such as miner’s fruitcake. This fruitcake is a lot like the food everyone hates to receive around the holidays but it is sure to taste better if it is eaten straight from the oven. Miner’s fruitcake is fairly easy to make and is full of delicious fruit. The miner’s fruitcake is designed to be hearty, filling and to give the miner something sweet to enjoy while working for long hours in the mine. One recipe from the book A Little Welsh Cookbook by E. Smith Twiddy is as follows.
Take one cup shortening, four cups self-rising flour, one and one third cup brown sugar, two and half cups mixed fruit (sultanas, currants, raisins, and cherries), four beaten eggs, half a cup of grated cheddar cheese, six to eight tablespoons milk, and some salt. First, sift the flour, salt, and sugar together. Then rub in the shortening. Next add the cheese and the fruit then add the beaten eggs and milk. Finally bake the mixture in a greased log pan in a three hundred degree oven for about an hour and forty- five minutes.
The Welsh cake is a biscuit like dessert that is easy to customize by adding different spices and fruits and nuts. They are extremely delicious and there is nothing better than to slip the leftovers into a lunch box so a treat can be enjoyed right before getting back to work. It may be called a cake but it is cooked using a griddle or a heavy frying pan. The recipe in Bobby Freeman’s book, First Catch Your Peacock a book of welsh food, uses mixed spice and currents. Currents are small seedless red berries, if a person were to try out the following recipe then they could substitute raisins for the currents and still have a very enjoyable Welsh cake.
The recipe is fairly easy and to make it first shift together eight ounces of plain flour, a pinch of salt, half a teaspoon of baking powder, and a quarter teaspoon of mixed spice. Then rub in two ounces of butter and two ounces of lard. Next add in three ounces of sugar, two ounces of currents and one egg. Mix this together until a stiff paste is produced. Then take the mixture and roll it out so that it is about a quarter inch thick. Then cut it into two and half inch rounds. Finally, cook the rounds on a greased griddle until it is golden brown. They can be eaten hot or cold (Freeman 163).
It is thanks to the tireless work of coal miners who brought forth the necessary coal that helped to run the machines that in turn shaped America. Coal Valley is just one town out of many that helped to play a role in shaping America. The mines of Coal Valley produced several hundred thousand tons of coal during the lifetime of the mines. Coal mining is hard work and after a long day of working having a good lunch is vital if a person wants to be able to get up the next day and go back to work. The miners of Coal Valley brought more than the hope of having a better life when they came to America they brought with them the recipes of their homeland that the miners of Europe had relied on for centuries and put them to use in their new homeland. Just like other groups of Immigrants the dishes they brought with them to America are still around today and can be found if a person is willing to search a little. Many places in Michigan still serve pasties, much to the enjoyment of the residents (Miller).
Works Cited
Freeman, Bobby. First Catch Your Peacock: A Book of Welsh Food. Griffithstown, Gwent: Mid Wales Litho Ltd, 1980. Print.
Garmey, Jane. Great British Cooking: A Well-Kept Secret. New York:HaperCollins, 1981. Print.
Historic Rock Island County. Rock Island, Ill.: Kramer & Company, 1908, Print.

Miller, Luke and Marc Westergren.The Cultural Context of the Pasty.Michigan Tech, 2000.Web. 4 April 2012. www.hu.mtu.edu/vup/pasty/recipes.htm
The Past and Present of Rock Island County, Ill. Chicago: H.F.Kett& Co., 1877. Print.
Twiddy, E. Smith. A Little Welsh Cookbook. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1991. Print.

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