Take one look at this Stargazy pie, and you may be slightly stunned at first as the fish pie stares right back at you. However, this fishy meal is one built on tradition and was actually made to save an entire village, so it’s got a lot going for it.
Stargazy pie originated in the 16th century in Mousehole, a coastal village in the rugged southwestern county of Cornwall, England. Back then, residents got by on the bounty of the sea that their local fishermen were able to bring back. However, with no real fish preservation methods at the time, natural disasters constantly threatened the village. A severe and lengthy storm could starve them all to death.
Legend has it that such a fierce storm had struck Mousehole in the 16th century, and many were worried about their dwindling food supplies. One fisherman, Tom Bawcock, decided to brave the storm and bring back some seafood for his village. Fortunately, he was able to make it back home safely and bring back a massive supply of seven different kinds of fish. These were then baked into a pie and devoured by the locals so quickly that even the heads didn’t go to waste.
Since then, on every December 23rd, Stargazy pies become part of the village lore and are at the center of a holiday festival that celebrates Bawcock’s bravery. Nowadays, as seen in the above video from Great Big Story, the Ship Inn Pub in Mousehole adds on to the Stargazy pie’s legacy by cooking enough of the fish pie to feed the entire community.
The pie gained its name from the sardines’ heads that poke out and look like they’re surfacing and gazing towards the nighttime sky. On the inside, six different white fish are baked into a traditional pie with hard-boiled eggs, milk, lemon, herbs, cider, mashed potatoes, and bacon. The pastry topping is garnished with the sardines, along with pastry remnants shaped like stars and crescents to resemble the nighttime sky.
Stargazy pie may be a far cry from other holiday dishes, but it’s a crucial one to the town of Mousehole.