Thursday, January 22, 2015

THE PA MELTING POT: Germany: German Sects: Part 4: Alsace-Lorraine: Part 1 of 2 :German or French? Lorraine

The PA Melting Pot: Germany:  German Sects 4 -German or French? Alsace-Lorraine 


Throughout the heavy immigration periods into the US we have no idea how many nationalities were written down incorrectly from exit ports to the ships’ manifests to the immigration landing records nor do we know how many names were spelled wrong or changed altogether. Europe was in constant flux for many centuries.  Example:  the now French provinces of Alsace-Lorraine in the north eastern part of France. Disputed for centuries by French kings, the princes of the Holy Roman Empire and embroiled in a bloody tug-of-war between France and Germany, France’s easternmost provinces share a tumultuous history. It’s no surprise then that almost everything, from the architecture to the cuisine and the language, is an enticing mixture of French and German – so much so that you might begin to wonder which country you’re actually in. 

Lorraine’s cuisine is affected by its bordering provinces:  on the west by the very   French Champagne area, on the south by Franche-Comte and on the east by very German-French Alsace.

Champagne: The French cuisine of Champagne  includes tartes (an open pastry case with a filling, savory or sweet) which the Lorraineans  embraced in their famous Quiche Lorraine, Pate Lorraine (chopped pork and veal with white wine & baked in puff pastry), Potee Lorraine (a stew of smoked meats and sausages, cabbage and root vegetables) and French charcuterie or German Fleischwaren (cured meats and Saucisson or Wursts or sausages shared by Lorraine, Champagne and Alsace). 

France-Compte: A meal in the Franche-Compte area could contain smoked mountain hams and saucisson (sausages) such as Jesu de Morteau and Bresi (thinly sliced cured beef), Saiucisse deMorteau, accompanied by "rösti" (wafers of potato) and by a salad of "cramaillots" (dandelions).  

Alsace: The German Alsacian influence on the cuisine of Lorraine could include a Flammenkuchen or tarte flambee which is bread dough rolled very thin in the shape of a rectangle and covered with fromage blanc or creme fraiche, sliced onions and lardons (bacon).  Fleishwaren or Charcuterie (meats), Schweinefleisch or Porc (pork), and Pates (famous Pate de Foie Gras from Strasbourg) are popular in Lorraine.  Other foods are sukrut or choucroute (sauerkraut), Wursts or Saucisson (sausages), spaetzle (noodles in both languages) and the heavier use of spices such as Kummel or Carvi grains (caraway seeds).

Historically, Lorraine was the site of the bloodiest battle of Verdun in World War I (1916) where thousands of French and Germans were slain.  Many Lorraineans fled the country for the US.  There are over 400,000 French Americans in PA and the state has 3.5 million people claiming German ancestry -- more than in Berlin. Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh, has 348,979 German-Americans, according to a census.  The question is could some of the Germans actually be Lorraineans or Alsatian (now French) depending upon who was in control of the provinces (the French or the Germans) at the time an immigrant came to the US?

This just further complicates tracing the Alsacian or  Lorrainean heritages.  The citizens of Alsace and Lorraine always claimed they were French even when Germany took over their cities and towns.  They were a very proud people and staunch about their French heritage.  So it is likely that some of the German population in western PA be Alsatian or Lorrainean from France?

Christine Willard, a native of western Pennsylvania, researches and blogs about the food unique to western Pennsylvania. She currently resides in North Carolina.   Her blog is

Friday, January 9, 2015

THE PA MELTING POT: New Year's in Greece, The Balkans, The Ukraine and Croatia

Column for The Uniontown Herald-Standard which appeared on 1/8/2015

Hope everyone enjoyed your New Year’s celebration.  Many other countries also celebrated the New Year’s holiday. 


According to the 2000 US Census there were approximately 15,000-20,000 Greek Americans in western Pa in the suburban areas.  New Year’s Day (or the Feast of Saint Basil) is a mix of traditional rites and modern fun.  On the morning of the New Year the children go from door to door singing kalanta (carols) and they are rewarded with a coin in return. Foods served during the holiday are:   Vassilopita (a sweet and savory bread baked with a gold or silver coin in it which will bring about good luck), Domatosoupa me Lathi (tomato and pasta soup), Tiropitakia (small feta cheese pies), Lahanosalata (winter cabbage salad), Galopoula Yemisti (stuffed turkey with chestnut and raisin stuffing),  Makaronia Ograten (meatless baked pasta), Meze (cheeses and olives), Horiatiko Psomi (crusty country bread) and epidórpia (desserts).

We don’t know how many Balkan Sea area descendants there are in western Pa. but numbers vary from 1 million to over 3 million in the United States.  Serbia, Bosnia, Montenegro, and other former Yugoslavian countries celebrate New Year’s Day on January 13-14 according to the Julian calendar by decorating the Christmas tree on New Year’s Eve and exchanging presents at that time.  They also bake a bread similar to the coined Greek bread (Vassilopita) called Cesnica.   Some foods (Serbian terms) served were Pita Sa Sirom (cheese pies), Cevapcici (miniature kebabs stuffed into lepinja bread), Svinjetina Poroku (pork tenderloin), Sarma (stuffed cabbage), Pecenje (split-roasted pig), Tortes (tarts), Povitica (nutrolls), and Prijatnol (strudels) and desserts galore. Rakia (a powerful drink of grape brandy sometimes blended with whiskey and spices) is traditional at this time of year.

The Pittsburgh area (also including Harmony Twp., Baden and Ambridge) is home to the fourth largest Ukrainian population in the United States, with most settling in the South Side, Carnegie, and McKees Rocks. Feasting on Ryba (fish), Salo (pork), Ovochi (legumes), Holubtsi (cabbage rolls), Pampushki (potato dumplings stuffed usually with cheese), Borshch (a basic stir-fry of grated beet root with tomatoes and vegetables), Varenyky (dough stuffed with anything: mashed potatoes with mushrooms and fried onions, pickled cabbage, minced meat and even cherries!) and Torty (cakes) and other confections are a big part of Ukrainian New Year's Eve and Day festivities celebrated on Jan. 13-14. Families gather to reflect on the past year, make toasts and predictions about the coming year, and presents are exchanged.

Pennsylvania is home to the largest population of Croatians in the country with approximately 50,000 residents in the state. That’s down from the 200,000 that were living in the Pittsburgh area in the early 1900’s.  It is difficult to estimate just how many Pittsburgh area residents are of Croatian descent today because "Croatia" included other nationalities.  In Croatia, New Year's Eve is celebrated with parties in houses, hotels, discos and public squares. Lucky foods eaten include Sarma (stuffed cabbage), Pecenka (spit-roasted pig), Cevapcici (minced meat kebab), Ajvar (spicy relish), Burek (special bread with cheese), Za Nareske (cold cuts), Strudels, Savijaca Od Oraha (nut rolls) and so much more are also eaten on New Year's Day, according to the family's preferences. 

Christine Willard, a native of western Pennsylvania, researches and blogs about the food unique to Western Pennsylvania. She currently resides in North Carolina.  Her blog can be found at .



Living in Greece
Explore Crete


Recipes from fathertimes

Greek New Year's Customs



Balkan Flags

Traditional Serbian:


(If you recall last year Russia raided The Ukraine and took over Crimea because it has a port and a large Russian population. The area is still occupied)

The Ukraine Links

5 Best Ukrainian traditional foods

Timetable for Ukrainian New Year’s Day

Encyclopedia of Traditional Ukrainian Foods

Celebrating New Years and Christmas in the Ukraine


Christmas Kutya Recipe

Top Five Ukrainian Christmas and New Year’s Dishes

All of Ukrainian holidays

Carol of the Bells VIDEO

Link to Ukrainian Christmas Videos

First Ukrainian Concert Video of 2015