Who knew that the ubiquitous, inoffensive staple of 20th century cocktail parties could have such a proud, international heritage? I am not talking about brie en croute, deviled eggs or even tuna tartar on tortilla chips. I am talking pigs in a blanket, that two-bite classic nibble composed of a mini frankfurter wrapped in puff pastry with a smear of yellow mustard. Humble, delicious and the epitome of composed convenience foods, these simple appetizers screamed American ingenuity. As it turns out, this hand-held idea hails from multiple offshore origins.
The idea of a self-contained, nutritious meal in its own edible packaging is as old as civilization itself. Traditional farmers were often working the fields all day and needed sustenance when they were too far away to come home for lunch. Miners working deep in the earth also needed a nutritious meal without the hassle of lugging flatware in their lunch sacks. Ironworkers, builders, bricklayers—all these hard-working men (and they were always men) could not leave the jobsite for a meal. Thus, the meal in a pocket was born.
You can easily continue the rich tradition of pocket meals and share it with your children to create innovative lunches for school (and and parents at work). And the results are much more nutritious—and much tastier—than any frozen or fast food can provide.
Spin the globe with your kids and you can find steamed buns filled with meat or beans in China, empanadas in Portugal and Latin America, samosas in India, pasties in Cornwall and the North-Central United States… pretty much every country has a unique interpretation of this wonderfully innovative hand-held meal.
Your shell can be made from puff pastry, masa, pizza dough, wide rice noodles or any sturdy dough. Fillings can range from the complex to a single ingredient. Let your family’s taste buds decide on spices, sauces and textures. Once you and your kids start experimenting with different pocket ideas, you’ll understand the edible art of the hand-held meal.
Following are three simple pocket meal recipes to enjoy with your family. Use these ideas as a springboard for your own pocket creations.
These delicious calzones are a breeze to throw together on a busy weeknight with very little prep, and any leftover calzones make a tasty lunchbox treat.
Ham and Cheese Empanadas
An Italian-American twist on this Latin-American classic fold-over sandwich, these empanadas are filled with two types of mozzarella cheese, giving a wonderfully gooey bite when served hot out of the oven. When packed for your child’s lunchbox, huge smiles will result from this superior take on the same-old ham & cheese on white.
These pocket pastries originated with miners in Cornwall, England as a meat stew in a self-contained edible pastry shell, no forks or knives required. As Cornish miners emigrated around the world, their pasties took hold in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and northern Minnesota. This vegetarian pasty, is perfect for lunchboxes as it tastes great both hot and cold.
PS: Before you write in, it’s not a typo. “Pasty” is one of these wonderfully old-fashioned terms marked “chiefly Brit.” in the dictionary. Go look…