‘The Pan Hag’ developed from research carried out by the artist in which she explored the themes of foraging, local produce, waste materials, local stories and myths, leisure activities, wast, and ’treasures’ that are specific to East Durham. Gayle Chong Kwan carried out visits to the area, hosted a ‘Myths and Monsters’ event at Low Tide Day in early summer 2014, and ran two walks in autumn 2014 in East Durham, develop with local specialists and featuring a range of sensory and memory activities related to the area: Walk 1 with Neil Horden - Cotsfords Fields Horden; Walk 2 with Dave Etheridge - Dalton-le-Dale walk through the Dene.
The themes and approach reflect the way in which elements and ingredients are brought together in the local dish of panackelty, panacalty, panaculty, panhaggerty, pan haggerty, or abbreviated as panack or pan hag. The commission, like the dish, focuses on a place or object in which different elements, often local, unseen, or leftover, are brought together and shared. The 'panhin' is an old English word for a small cooking pan, and the casseroled dish consists of meat (corned beef, bacon, sausages or black pudding), root vegetables, or potatoes and cheese, which is cooked throughout the day in an oven pot on low heat, or made as a soup, and is usually served in the dish in which it is cooked. Historically a favourite of miners and shipyard workers, the hundreds of variations of the dish are passed down through the generations, with the name possibly deriving from 'hashed' as in 'chopped', or from 'ragged' for its irregular appearance. Variations on the dish appear in different guises all over the world, from French potato gratin, to Scottish stovie and Welsh onion cake.