Eunice Woolcock and her pasties were a dream come true for TV crew
Eunice Woolcock has had an exciting few weeks. Ever since appearing on ITV's Food Glorious Food earlier this month making her pasties, she's getting used to being stopped in the street by complete strangers wanting the recipe.
Then there's becoming an internet sensation, which the 93-year-old great-grandmother is very much taking in her stride. She's had more than 4,000 "likes" on her Facebook page, and cards from well-wishers have been dropping through the letterbox of her home in Camborne, too.
"I'm everywhere, like a rash!" she says.
Eunice has been cooking all her life, and pasties are her speciality. As a child, she was taught to make them by her mother, for her father and brothers to take down the mines. Nowadays, if she's making a batch, she'll make an extra one for one of her two daughters, who lives two doors down.
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"They are a substantial meal, all in one," she says. "You don't feel hungry if you've had a pasty, not like with other meals, where you are hungry again 20 minutes later."
Now they could be heading for the shelves in Marks & Spencer, after Eunice won the South West heat of the contest to find "a very special dish" to be taken on by the store.
The competition is being followed in a nine-part ITV series, and Eunice has starred in regional heats in Kingsbridge, Gloucester and Herefordshire, making her pasties from scratch for judge Tom Parker Bowles.
She's been sworn to secrecy about whether she's triumphed out of six regions to be named overall champion, to be revealed in a forthcoming episode. She confesses, though, to have been bowled over by the experience – particularly when Tom, food writer and son of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, turned up unexpectedly on her doorstep in Camborne for tea.
"He's a lovely chap, he's very nice indeed, really homely," she says.
"I didn't know he was coming here, it was so unexpected I was flabbergasted. I know he's not royalty, exactly, but..."
Luckily, as she'd been expecting the ITV film crew, she'd baked her homemade sponge cake and Cornish heavy cake, both of which Tom was pleased to sample.
And he came with her to her local fruit and veg shop and butchers in Camborne to buy her pasty ingredients: local potatoes, onions, swede and beef skirt. "I hope I have put Camborne on the map!" she adds.
All this was filmed by the ITV crew, who were fortified by Eustice's pasties. "I love those boys, they can be my grandsons!" she says.
Eunice is known locally for her pasties, and has won a raft of local competitions for them down the years. So she naturally responded to an advert calling for pasty makers in her local paper some two years ago.
"It said 'Are you passionate about pasties? If so. ring this number'. I thought it was a competition down here, seeing as it was in the Falmouth Packet. This chap answered, and asked me lots of questions."
When he told her he was from ITV, and that auditioning for the programme might mean a trip to London, she was less keen. "I said. 'My dear boy, there's no way I could entertain that.'"
Undeterred, the researcher made the trip to Camborne to see her. "He took some pictures of me making a pasty in my kitchen," she says.
She heard nothing for a long while, then last year, out of the blue, she got another phone call. "One Thursday night, this lady rang, and she said 'are you Eunice?' and I said 'Yes', and she said 'Do you make pasties?' and I said 'Well, I've made a few.' Then she asked if I'd come down and make them at Kingsbridge. I said, 'I don't think so dear, I'm 92.'"
But Eunice had her arm twisted by grandson Sean Hosking, who persuaded her to let him drive her to the event last September, where she was filmed making the pasties for presenter Carol Vorderman and judge Tom.
In actual fact, she says, it was more driving herself to Devon – "all those roundabouts" – that put her off, rather than being on TV. "If it was something I had never done before, I would have been a bit nervous, but I could make pasties in my sleep," she says.
Her secret to making a good pasty? "Common sense is the first thing. It is only a bit of pastry, and you have got to have good meat and good vegetables. The secret, too, is not to get your pastry too wet."
And, the other thing that's important, she says, is how you eat it. "You are supposed to hold it in your hand."
Can you use a knife and fork, if you want? "You can but it won't taste the same."
Eunice, 93, first made pasties as a small child, growing up between the wars on a farm at Carleen, between Camborne and Porthleven. She and her two brothers would help her mother with the baking.
"Mother'd be at the kitchen table making pasties for tea. She would give us a bit of pastry each, and we would roll it out neatly, then fold it over – I learned how to crimp."
"Children aren't taught cooking these days," she adds. "They don't know about the things that they should know about, and they know all about the things they shouldn't!"
She made pasties for the threshing gangs who came to help the harvest. "We had all these men to help thresh the corn and put it into bales and pack it into a rick.
"We also used to grow potatoes."
During the war, Eunice remembers, there was such a shortage of food, she and her mum made pasties with rabbit or even just Bisto gravy. "They were tasty," she says.
Newly married, Eunice saw her husband Frank go off to war, an anxious time. It was a great relief when he came back. They were married for 56 years, until Frank's death 13 years ago, and in that time she made him a lot of pasties. The pastry-making tradition has continued, as she makes pasties for her grandson and granddaughter and her 11-year-old great-grandson.
As a key member of the Pengegon WI in Camborne, she's won lots of prizes for her pasties. This is the first time, though, that she's won one on TV.
"It has been a great experience, and I would never have done it if I didn't have my pasties," says Eunice. "To enter it has been absolutely wonderful, absolutely brilliant. It has been a lot of laughs, a lot of fun."
Food Glorious Food continues each Wednesday on ITV at 8pm. Eunice will feature again in forthcoming episodes.