Pie tends to be a crowd pleaser, beloved by all. Stargazey pie, however, is a Cornish dish that can startle some crowds—mainly because of the fish heads poking up out of the crust.
Traditionally served during Tom Bawcock’s Eve, a Christmastime festival held in the Cornish village of Mousehole, England, the dish wears its ingredients on its sleeve. The savory pie contains basic ingredients like potatoes and eggs. But it really stands out thanks to the inclusion of intact fish heads (and sometimes tails) stabbing up out of the crust, as though looking at the stars, thus the name. Generally an anchovy-like fish called a pilchard is used, but who would complain if it were a different species staring up at you?
The dish is said to have originated in honor of the night that Tom Bawcock, a 16th-century Mousehole folk hero, sailed out to fish, despite dangerous storms. As the story goes, he returned with enough catch to end a local famine. In some versions of the tale, Bawcock brought his cat along, which helped calm the storm.
Today the festival is also marked with lantern lightings. But the legend of Tom Bawcock will always be most notable for its striking fish head pie.