One day in the late 19th century, after a long, hard morning toiling in the copper mines of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, two tired, hungry men sat on the edge of a freshly dug mine shaft and began to refuel. A Cornish man and Finn, whom each immigrated to the U.P. during the mining industry boom of the 1860s, shared a well-earned lunch break. The menu de jour for both miners- leftovers.
[This post uses fictionalization to showcase the cultural significance of actual events. The historical references are accurate, but the depiction uses fictional characters. It is designed to represent hypothetical experiences of many people, which may have occurred over an extended period. The exact scene is improbable.]
For the Cornish Brit, it was a creatively assembled ‘past-day’ conglomeration of meats and veggies wrapped on all sides with a flaky crust. It looked like an edible knapsack, a puffy pillow of deliciousness stuffed with hearty beef, potato, onion, and rutabaga. He called it an Oggy, or a Hogen. For the Finn, a biscotti-like bread loaf, mildly sweet, moist, made from leftover wheat. He referred to his as “nisu”, the Finnish word for wheat. Today, we call it Pulla.
The two copper miners peered at each other’s peculiar meals. The Finnish miner broke off a piece of his cardamom flavored coffee-dunker sweet bread, and began to spread his favorite Thimbleberry jam atop the rich double-baked loaf. His hands were filthy with ash and soot. The bread began to crumble and stick to his dirty hands. In the mines, this Nisu delicacy seemed to be just a shadow compared to his English neighbor’s meat and veggie stuffed pastry. The multifaceted aromas and resounding flavors that extruded from his cohort’s hand-held Oggy were as dense as the entree itself. It could stay warm for several hours. If it did get cold, it could easily be warmed on a shovel over a candle.
Both recipes originated from the miners’ beloved homelands – Pulla from Finland, and the British culinary concoction derived first from aristocrats and royalty across Western Europe. Because of the Oggy’s easily adaptable “to-go” features, it was quickly adopted by miners in Cornwall, the westernmost county in England. The Cornish entree was far more suitable for work in the mines. The working class in Cornwall were very well familiar with this luncheon ritual. They were expert miners, digging up tin, arsenic, and copper in West England since the Bronze Age in 2150 BC. By the 1860s when work across the pond dissipated, they brought their skills and tricks of trade with them to the U.P. The designated meal had been handed down through Cornish mining families for centuries. Just as Yoopers do today, they were eager to celebrate the meal, and share it with the world.
The Cornish man quickly devoured the better-part of his meal, and few bites remained, bites of which could fill any hardworking immigrant laborer’s growling stomach. Noticing the Finnish man fumbling with his Pulla and as polite Cornish men do, the miner offered the remainder of his lunch to his newly befriended Finnish coworker. “Here,” offered the Brit, “Finnish this Oggy.”
Don’t believe it? Explore Finnish Pasty Theory