© 2018 The Roughwood Table. All photos, unless noted, and recipes/text are ©  Roughwood Table.

  • Facebook - White Circle
  • Instagram - White Circle

Culinary Pennsylvania

Region 1 – Philadelphia

Philadelphia is the oldest of the state’s culinary regions, tracing its roots to the early Dutch and Swedish settlers in the Delaware Valley and of course to the establishment of the City by William Penn. However, the city’s culinary profile evolved over the centuries to include its extensive trade connections with the Caribbean (hence the introduction of dishes like pepperpot) and with the rich farmland in a ring of counties on both sides of the Delaware River.

Menu dated 1939 from the Warwick Hotel, Philadelphia. This once fashionable hotel is where the popular Philadelphia dish “Shrimp Lamaze” was created. It was named after George Lamaze, the hotel’s executive vice-president.

Local specialties like catfish-and-waffles, scrapple, sticky buns (cinnamon buns), cream cheese, ice cream made exclusively with cream, and more recent inventions like Consommé Bellevue, the hoagie and beefsteak sandwiches, and South Philly tomato pie, all speak to the unique cultural fusionism that has established the City as the foundation for modern American cuisine.

Recommended Reading
Joe Colanero. Down Jersey Cooking. Woodbury, NJ: Down Jersey Press, 2004
Available at Amazon.com
Becky Diamond. Mrs. Goodfellow: The Story of America’s First Cooking School.
Yardley, PA: Westholme Publishing, 2012. Available at Amazon.com

Region 2 – The Pennsylvania Dutch Country

Consisting of 25 counties representing a culinary region roughly the same size as Switzerland, the Pennsylvania Dutch region is by far the richest in terms of variety and foodways. Blending culinary traditions from Swabia, Alsace, Switzerland, and the German Palatinate with New World ingredients, this unique American style of cookery is also the most extensively studied, with over 1600 dishes not found elsewhere in the state. Authentic Dutch cuisine is essentially farmhouse fare and does not readily adapt to restaurant style presentation. However, a new movement is exploring the reinvention of this traditional fare in the light of farm-to-table menus.

Menu in Pennsylvania Dutch dated 1954 from Miller’s Smorgasbord in Ronks, Pennsylvania. Established in 1929 Miller’s became a tourist Mecca famous for its chicken-and-waffle dinners. It was also the first restaurant in Lancaster County to welcome African-Americans, thus shaming other establishments in the Amish tourist belt to follow suit.

Pretzels, shoofly pie, chicken-and-waffles, teaberry ice cream, Bologna sausage, Datsch breads, Schales (vegetable tarts), Gumbis (deep-dish meat and cabbage casseroles), Mauldasche (pocket dumplings), Buwweschenkel (giant pirogies), saffron pot pie, and a rich array of pork charcouterie are only some of the unique foods found in this region.

 

Recommended Reading
William Woys Weaver. As American As Shoofly Pie. Philadelphia: University of
Pennsylvania Press, 2013. Available at Amazon.com
William Woys Weaver. Dutch Treats: Heirloom Recipes from Farmhouse Kitchens.
Pittsburgh: St. Lynn’s Press, 2016. Available at Amazon.com

Region 3 – The Northern Tier Counties

Prohibition (non-alcoholic) beer label from 1920s Wilkes-Barre.

This region represents the northeastern corner of the state that was originally settled by New Englanders from Connecticut. That connection gave rise to the New England Society, which for many years honored its Yankee roots with New England style banquets. The rugged mountains of this area have always invited hunters and sport fishing, especially trout, while the maple forests yield an impressive crop of maple syrup and sugar. However, coal mining and the over-harvesting of local timber in the last century radically changed the physical landscape and displaced farming as the region’s primary industry. Employment in the mines attracted large numbers of Eastern Europeans to settle in the area and today they define the cultural milieu. No one to date has surveyed the culinary specialties of this region, especially what may have evolved as a result of different cultural groups living side by side.

Region 4 – The Allegheny Mountains and Southwest Appalachians

The Allegheny Highlands form the backbone of Pennsylvania and serve as a link to the Upper South. While the Keystone Center has designated this as one region, it may actually represent two or three sub-regions: the northernmost counties and their orientation toward New York State, the central counties focused on Greater Pittsburgh, and the southwestern counties that are more southern in character. Furthermore the Ohio River serves as yet another link to the South and the food exchanges that inevitably occurred as the result of river trade.

Appalachian log house at Campbell’s Run, Carnegie, Pennsylvania. Real photo postcard, ca. 1905.

This is also a region of stark economic dichotomies: the poverty of Appalachia on the one hand, as represented by the picture of the log house, and the extraordinary wealth of Pittsburgh, as expressed by the 1910 photo of the interior of the Rathskeller in the Café Kleman, where Pittsburgh’s rich and powerful once congregated. This photograph is taken from a 28-page menu featuring the best cuisine of the Gilded Age.

The Rathskeller at the Kleman Café, Pittsburgh, 1910.

The farm-to-table movement is very strong in Pittsburgh and is now encouraging a new look at local food specialties. Keystone Board Member Jenny Bardwell has written a book on salt raised bread, one of the many unique foods that define this part of the state. Other dishes like “plug mush,” shortbread Johnny cakes, ramp cookery, and the cuisine of the riverboats that once connected Pittsburgh to New Orleans are all part of a fascinating culinary history that needs further exploration.

Recommended Reading
Genevieve Bardwell and Susan Ray Brown, Salt Rising Bread. Pittsburgh: St. Lynn’s
Press, 2016. Available at Amazon.com
Editors of St. Lynn’s Press, Ramps: The Cookbook. Pittsburgh: St. Lynn’s Press, 2012.
Available at Amazon.com

Region 5 – The Northwest Lakeshore Region

Cookbook published in 1933 to promote ECOMA Ice Cream, a product of the Erie County Milk Association.

The culinary profile of the Northwest Lakeshore Region is defined by its proximity to Lake Erie. Historically the lake provided this part of the state with a broad network of trade connections, thus insuring a constant influx of different cultural groups and their foods. Since this area is sandwiched between Ohio and New York, it is by nature part of a broader lakeshore culture stretching from Buffalo to Cleveland. However there are many foods and foodways particular to this area, especially dishes based on white fish, lake trout, and pike. The lake’s moderating affect on the climate has encouraged the growth of viticulture and orchards, and dairy farming was made profitable due to the railroads. Perhaps the most nationally famous culinary products from this region are the cast iron cook wares and innovative waffle irons of the former Griswold Manufacturing Company.