Pasties arrived in the northland of Michigan over a century ago with Cornish miners who came to dig ore. The men who went down into the mines were tough characters, tough as mules, and therefore known colloquially as Cousin Jacks; their wives were Cousin Jennies. These hard-working immigrants made their native land’s pasty an Upper Peninsula tradition; and although the mines are closed, the pasty persists. Essentially beef stew inside a sturdy pastry crust, they were originally favored by miners because they were easy to carry and easy to eat – a hearty pocket meal.
Nick and Jerilyn DeBoer opened Cousin Jenny’s restaurant in the 1980s, bringing pasties to Traverse City. Cousin Jenny’s is a modern cafeteria that serves pasties for both breakfast and for lunch. Place your order at the counter where you can see what’s available (there are salads and soups as well as pasties), then pay at the cash register at the end of the line. When your meal is hot and ready, it will be brought to your table.
The breakfast pasties, known as bobbies, are completely self-contained pastry pillows of eggs, bacon or sausage, hash browns, and cheese; and while they can be picked up and eaten by hand, they’re hefty and drippy and stuffed enough that a knife and fork make good sense.
The lunch pasties are available in two sizes: ten ounces or a pound; and they definitely need utensils, especially if served with gravy. They are listed on the menu as “Gourmet Pasties,” but the steak pasty is the traditional configuration, filled with beef, potatoes, onion, and rutabaga. In addition, you can get a meatless seven-vegetable pasty with cream and cheese; and there are always novelty pasties available, such as Italian (with pizza sauce and pepperoni) or German (Swiss cheese, ham, and sauerkraut in a rye-flavored crust).
Pasties can be bought partially cooked, ready to bake at home, or fully frozen and ready to ship.
"A breakfast Bobby, filled with sausage, eggs, hash browns, and cheese. That's sour cream on the left."
"The order counter at Cousin Jenny's. Browse what's available at the near end, then pay in back."
"To those of us not from the northland, the pasty is a fairly exotic regional specialty. To locals, it is part of everyday life; and Cousin Jenny's is a comfortable town cafe. By the way, pasty is pronounced PASS-tee."
"Welcome to the best pasties in Michigan!"
"A Bobby is a self-contained breakfast about half the size of a regulation pasty."