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Apr 30, 2009 08:55 AM

Need PA-centric foods for my new book

Hi, folks, looking for some help. I'm writing a 4th edition of my guidebook, Pennsylvania Breweries. In the 3rd edition I added a Pennsylvania Regional Foods section that had cheesesteaks, cup cheese, Boilo, landjaegers, Old Forge pizza, bumbleberry pie, and the Primanti Bros. sandwich. I also had brief mentions of hoagies, soft pretzels, scrapple, Tastykakes, shoofly pie, apple schnitz, local chips and pretzels, chicken pot pie, red beet eggs, hot dogs (with the meat sauce that goes by a variety of names), and Pittsburgh fried fish sandwiches.

Now... what I'm looking for are other Pennsylvania regional foods I didn't list, the Pennsylvania equivalent of New York's spiedies or beef on weck, or DC's half-smokes, or New Jersey's salt water taffy and pork roll. Really Pennsylvania stuff, not a Pennsylvania restaurant that makes really good barbecue, for example. One that comes to mind -- and I can't believe I missed it -- is Lebanon bologna, definitely going in the new book. But I know I must have missed some stuff. I'm particularly interested in foods from the center and northwest part of the state, don't have many of those.

Can you help me out? Thanks!

Lew Bryson

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  1. - German/Philadelphia gooey butter cake
    - Stock's pound cakes

    2 Replies
    1. re: Buckethead

      Ha, butter cake: the only time I ever saw people get nasty at Rieker's Prime Meats in Philly was when a woman ignored the clear sign and sat her bag on top of a butter cake and squashed it! They made her buy it, and I thought she got off easy: they should have taken her out back and smacked her.

      1. re: LewBryson

        If you were at Riekers you should have gone down the street to Danish Bakers and got some butter cake from there its by far the best in Philly. is their new website

    2. Not from the part of the state you are requesting but: pepper hash, Roast Pork with Provolone and Rabe, Copes corn and paw paws

      6 Replies
      1. re: Bigley9

        Paw paws like the fruit, or something else?

        1. re: Dib

          the fruit. I don't know of it still be grown outside of PA and it is a native fruit

          1. re: Bigley9

            My husband went to college in VA, and gave me the impression it's quite popular in parts of the South, so I don't know if it can be a PA thing.

            Which is also true about a lot of ethnic foods, his family is Polish/Slovak from Cleveland and they would be absolutely horrified to learn that anyone considers pierogies or any other Eastern European cuisine to be a "PA thing". That would be kinda like trying to claim pizza. That is why we so often end up back at PA Dutch foods - it is its own unique culture, much like Creole is in Louisiana.

            1. re: centralpadiner

              Ah! My mistake! I agree with the pierogies/German/Polish thing - we just had a heavy concentration of those ethnicities here early. It's like saying red gravy is native to South Philly! (although the name may be) ; )

        2. re: Bigley9

          I'm from south central PA, and my grandpa used to grow corn for John Copes.

          1. re: rgroverohrbaugh

            I love Copes corn but it is almost impossible to find except for a few weeks before Thanksgiving.

            Shoo-fly pie.

        3. Sticky buns, Montgomery pie, whoopee pies, teaberry ice cream, birch beer, venison jerky, chicken and waffles, hot sausage sandwiches at all the fairs and auctions, pierogies, ham and green bean public dinners, Mallow Cups, Gardner's peanut butter meltaways, and those abhorrent western PA iceberg lettuce salads topped with French fries, among many others

          10 Replies
          1. re: Dan D

            I'm with you, and thanks (especially for the teaberry ice cream and birch beer (DUH!)) except... Montgomery pie? Who dat?

            1. re: LewBryson

              montgomery pie is very similar to shoefly pie except it is vanilla flavored.

              other possibilities: pasties (slate belt area of northampton county), lettuce with hot bacon dressing. funny cake (like shoefly pie but with a layer of chocolate)

            2. re: Dan D

              Mallow cups!! For sure. I am a Pittsburgh girl living near Austin Tx and get my Mallow cup fix at every Cracker Barrel in the state!!

              Regional Pittsburgh food...chipped ham BBQ sndwiches for sure!

              1. re: Dan D

                chicken and waffles is not PA thing.

                1. re: cookieluvntasha

                  Depends on the "chicken and waffles" you're talking. FRIED chicken and waffles? No. But chicken gravy with chunks of chicken in it (and maybe some peas and onions) with plenty of black pepper? Yeah, that's PA Dutch, and I've never seen it anywhere else.

                  1. re: LewBryson

                    ya learn something new every day! my mother grew up in northeast Indiana - in THEIR Amish country. Those rare times we had chicken and waffles, it was what LewB described - kind of like a pot pie filling over waffles, but usually over toast. I've only just learned what southerners meant by chicken and waffles [and it sure doesn't sound right to me!]

                    1. re: jiffypop

                      As I was growing up, My grandmother always had us over for leftover turkey. It was prepared as the chicken and waffles jiffypop and Lew Bryson describe above. Yum! The waffles were homemade too. No , let go my eggo in this scenerio. Grandma grew up in Pa Dutch/ MD country. Does anyone remember chicken pot pie with rolled out dough squares that would puff up cooked in chicken broth?Its another Pa Dutch recipe.

                      1. re: traveleryvette

                        Chicken bot boi! was corrupted by english speakers to Chicken pot pie - American pot pie confused me no end when I first saw it!

                      2. re: jiffypop

                        Lew got to include Prerogies Plus preogies.

                  2. re: Dan D

                    Whoopee pies (AKA gobs) are definitely something to include!

                    1. re: Burghfeeder

                      Need to find it somewhere first!
                      But I'll tell you: I definitely agree on the Monterey Pub. Great place, wish I lived on that street.

                      1. re: LewBryson

                        I've had some people tell me to try the Union Grill on Craig St in Oakland...I haven't made it there yet, but I will!

                        The Monterey is really a great find. It's the kind of place that you just feel comfortable as soon as you walk in.


                    2. - Kennett Square mushrooms
                      - Bassetts ice cream
                      - whoopie pies
                      - Herr's potato chips

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: CindyJ

                        Do we know if whoopie pies ARE Pennsylvanian? I've seen them claimed as "made here" in a number of states...all with sizeable Mennonite populations. I wonder if they've spread them wherever they've gone.

                        1. re: LewBryson

                          A quick check on Google does not provide a definitive answer as to WHERE they originated. But they are considered to be of Amish origin.

                          1. re: LewBryson

                            My great grandmother came from Scotland to Maine and made whoopie pies without ever knowing anyone from Pennsylvania.

                            1. re: crazyspice

                              Yes, definitely- I haven't seen whoopie pies since I've been here, but you'll find them in every small store in Maine... Mostly homemade by someone local and they are great. But I was surprised to hear they are around here too!

                            2. re: LewBryson

                              I don't know if whoopie pies are just from PA, but I never saw them til I moved here. Styer's Orchard Market sells them in chocolate, pumpkin, and oatmeal raisin, and they sell a LOT!

                              1. re: Snookie

                                Whoopie pies are common in Pennsylvania, Maine, and Indiana. Indiana and PA make sense as they share an Amish/Mennonite connection - not sure why they're also big in Maine. The suggestion is that PA has the strongest claim on origin though.