Monday, 23 December 2019

Eating A Christmas Pie #3

Today is Tom Bowcock's Eve. Maybe you've read the story of The Mousehole Cat? This is a brilliant retelling of an old legend, by author Antonio Barber, and illustrator Nicola Bayley.
The story goes like this - it was approaching Christmas and the weather was incredibly bad. The inhabitants of a little Cornish fishing village of Mousehole [pronounced Mowzel]  were really worried. The boats had been unable to go out for days because of the storms, and everyone was hungry, fish was their staple diet. They were cut off, by road and sea, and knew that unless a miracle happened they would starve.
On Christmas Eve, a brave fisherman called Tom Bowcock set out through the crashing waves to try and catch something - anything-to feed his family and friends.
He returned safely to the harbour with a huge catch. Seven sorts of fish... Pilchards and others. They made a huge pie, and to show that it really did contain fish, the heads and tails were left poking out. Everyone ate, and they were saved! 

Ever since then, people in Cornwall have remembered Tom's brave act, and it is tradition to eat Stargazey Pie just before Christmas.
It is served, to great acclain, in The Ship Inn which is the only pub in Mousehole. The name is obviously because of the fish gazing up at the stars.
Now the cynics will tell you it was a marketing stunt dreamt up by the landlord in the 1950s, not a Tudor story. But Dorothy Hartley, the great expert on the history of English food, wrote of this pie in 1952, and certainly the associated folksong dates back at least to the 1920s. And other naysayers will claim they weren't starving if they had Flour and butter for the pastry, and eggs and milk for the sauce. I don't much care - it's a great story!
Have you ever eaten Stargazey Pie? I haven't - it would be fun to try it sometime


  1. I have heard of stargazey pie (or read about it) before, but, I have never eaten it. Lovely story to go with the pie!

  2. I'm very glad you posted this! I was actually in the animated film version of this book that was made- we sang the song at the end of the film, "A merry place you may believe in Mousehole on Tom Bowcock's eve, to be there then who wouldn't wish to sup on several sorts of fish..." We then sang it live at the Premiere of the film which was at the Barbican!
    It's such a beautiful story and the illustrations are really beautiful!

    1. Wow! You were actually IN the film? I always knew you were a star!

    2. Well, since it was an animation- it was my VOICE that was in the film! About 5-10 of us from my youth choir were the voices in the song at the end!

  3. I've never eaten Stargazey pie but it looks interesting! I do long to visit Mousehole too!


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