Food & faith: Grass Valley United Methodist Church’s monthly pasty sales a tasty tradition | TheUnion.com

Food & faith: Grass Valley United Methodist Church’s monthly pasty sales a tasty tradition

There are a number of traditions that set Nevada County apart. Some of them are celebratory, some are spiritual, and some … well, some are culinary.

Take, for example, the Cornish Pasty. The story goes that the miners who plummeted below the earth's surface each day on a quest for gold were hard-pressed for something that would be easy to eat and would give them the energy their bodies required to complete such arduous work. So they went back to their Cornish roots and settled on the pasty.

Compact yet filling, the pasties were traditionally filled with meat and potatoes for lasting sustenance.

Although life in Nevada County has changed drastically since the heyday of the mines, today the Cornish Pasties remain unique to our area and a just few others throughout the United States, such as parts of Michigan.

In addition to the numerous Pasty Shops dotted throughout the county, those who are fans of the savory treats have an unlikely place to satisfy their craving: Grass Valley's United Methodist Church.

Carrying on a tradition that began over three decades ago, the United Methodist Church holds a Pasty Sale on the last Thursday of each month. On that day, happy customers can be seen carrying their large boxes full of the flaky delights out of the church.

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According to Bill Croker, Chairman of the Church Council at United Methodist, the Pasty Sale "started as fundraiser for the youth in our church, many years ago. It evolved into a way to pay the mortgage on [our] new building, which was built in '97. It has gone on to become a method of supporting our ministries of our church."

Croker also said, "We actually call it the Pasty Ministry. It supports our church and extended ministries — things like Interfaith Food Ministry, our Last Friday Supper, Hospitality House and so on."

Serving the community one pasty at a time

A message on the church's website stated that "this fundraiser allows us to do more for our community, while giving us a place and time to gather and share our lives."

The Pasty Sale has wildly exceeded any expectations the church could have had. Croker said that for each sale, they make about 900 pasties and consistently sell out. Most of the pasties, he said, are on hold for customers who have placed an order, but due to the popularity of the event, they make extras for walk-in patrons who want to try their luck.

With a laugh, Croker said, "We have lots of repeat customers!"

"At one time, about 20 years ago, all of the pasties were reserved; you couldn't even get a pasty [without ordering in advance]," he said. "Now it has changed and we still have a strong reserve base but we also make more pasties for walk-in customers."

Even more impressive than their sale totals is the fact that the monthly Pasty Sales — from baking to counting change — are completely run by group of about 35 volunteers. New volunteers and helpers are always welcomed and appreciated.

In addition to making possible the church's outreach and extended ministries, Croker said that there is a deeper significance to their Pasty Sale, one rooted in history.

"It is tradition for this community; these are traditional Cornish pasties, brought by Cornish miners. There's real value to maintaining tradition, and it is a great way of supporting our church and the ministry" said Croker.

The next Pasty Sale at Grass Valley United Methodist Church will take place Thursday, March 29. Pasties are sold from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and all pasties must be picked up by 2 p.m. sharp on that day.

For more information regarding the Grass Valley United Methodist Church, their Pasty Sale, and other events, visit http://www.gv-umc.org or call (530) 272-1946.

Jennifer Nobles is a freelance writer for The Union and can be contacted at jenkrisnobles@gmail.com.