Popping a piping hot pasty into your mouth on a cold day warms the tummy like few other Winter treats.
It’s tasty, filling, and convenient which is why people have been making and eating pasties for more than 900 years.
Today this scrumptious tradition lives on through a group of dedicated volunteer women linked to Lobethal’s Restvale Aged Care Home who have been baking thousands of pasties for years in aid of the Home’s fundraising efforts.
Made famous by Cornish miners during the 17th and 18th centuries, the pasty’s origins have been traced back to 13th century England when the fillings included lamb, local eels, venison, and beef.
Wives of Cornish miners started making them to be taken down into the damp, dark mines where they would be devoured leaving only one edge crimped into a thick crust specially created so miners could hold their pasty with dirty hands and not contaminate their meal.
Springing from an idea to raise money for amenities needed by Restvale’s elderly residents, a group of 20 dedicated women in the 1960s established the Restvale House Committee to organise fundraising activities in the Lobethal community.
On 22 August 1963, a Mrs M Kleeman convened a meeting to form the ‘Ladies Committee of the Lobethal and District Aged Homes Incorporated’. Their first major fundraiser was a Springtime Ball held on 1 November 1963.
In September 1965, it was resolved to alter the name of ‘Lobethal and District Aged homes Incorporated Ladies Auxiliary’ to ‘Restvale House Committee’.
Their imaginative enthusiasm overflowed into grand plans for an annual fete, a Christmas event, a Spring Fashion and Hat Parade, Open House and Floral Exhibition, bus trips and birthday parties, all mostly open to a local community who embraced these new additions to their social calendar in a way that only country folk do.
Preparations for the one-day annual fete would begin the Friday night before Saturday’s official opening by a local dignitary. Helpers scurried hither and thither setting up trestles, chairs, and marquees to make way for White Elephant stalls, cake and plant stalls and Devonshire Teas. Hundreds of families flocked to the day-long community spectacle. It was a yearly social must-do for residents of Lobethal and surrounds that created an atmosphere of a town fairground with Restvale at its centre.
After the event ended, everything had to be restored to its original state in time for the residents’ dinner on Saturday evening.
Money raised paid for air conditioning in the Home, new furnishings, beds, carpets, and a number of other welcome comforts to make life more congenial for those in residence.
Awash with success the Committee dared to dream bigger. In 2009 an idea was conceived to launch a Pasty Drive.
In that first year local volunteer cooks floured up to bake 3000 pasties using 45kg of butter and all offered for sale to the people of Lobethal who just could not get enough of them. So popular became the gobble and go delicacy that, 10 years later, the House Committee was producing 21,000 pasties and sausage rolls using 350kg of butter, 800kg of flour and 1.6 tonnes of potatoes in their annual bake-off.
Runaway sales attracted support from local businesses with the Lobethal Bakery contributing flour free of charge and Riverland growers donating vegetables. It ensured a minimum cost operation and a maximum dollar return for the charity’s efforts. It also helped enshrine the notion of local community input into Restvale activity.
There is a great deal of pride in the way Restvale has cultivated relationships within its local community centred on Lobethal. A warm relationship has been nurtured over many years creating a sense of belonging, helping Restvale residents feel stimulated, connected, and contented. From businesses and health services to community groups, schools, and churches, Restvale not only benefits from many interactions with the local people and business houses, but it also contributes through its pursuit of various activities and services that bring economic and social benefits to the township.
Moneys raised from the Pasty Drives helped fund several improvements at Restvale including pergola roofing in the main courtyard; new outdoor furniture; reverse cycle air conditioning in all rooms; and installation of a solar panel system.
Membership of the House Committee was open to all who had an interest in enhancing the lives of Restvale’s residents. When they joined, they stayed for a very long time. Founding member Olga Hein is the oldest aged 96, while the youngest is now 77.
Sadly, sand in the Committee’s hourglass was running out by 2020 and a day of reckoning loomed over its fruitful work. Advancing years among its hard-working members, Covid-19 restrictions and the changing lifestyles of pressured young working families combined to bring down the curtain on the formal arrangement that had kept the Group in play for decades.
It became ominously clear that the House Committee would have to disband. There were simply not enough people available to commit their time to this worthy and endearing cause in the life of Restvale. For those remaining it had simply become too much to manage with a declining membership. Dwindling numbers of members were themselves growing older and others were retiring due to poor health.
The future was bleak. In 2021 a decision was reluctantly taken to officially wind up the central activities of the Committee.
However, this time, there would not be an epilogue. In a postscript befitting the lively spirit of the House Committee’s founders who believed that as one door closed another opened, it was the heart and soul of the Committee – reflected in those attempting to carry on – who were determined to ensure the continued survival of the Pasty Drive.
As the coronavirus had already slammed the door on in-house fundraisers at Restvale, remaining members rallied valiantly to reimagine the Pasty Drive. It would become an event no longer requiring a labour-intensive site with accompanying marquees, toilets, kitchens, and other necessary infrastructure. It would be run as stand-alone fundraiser using online ordering and delivery principles that had only recently revolutionised bricks and mortar retailing.
Today, order forms for these special culinary treats can be collected from Restvale, the Woodside Caltex petrol station or the Lobethal newsagent. The future of ‘home-grown’ pasties baked with love by generous-hearted Restvale volunteers now seems assured.