Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Melting Pot: PART 2 - How Ethnic Foods Survived Through Early Mobility


Posted: Thursday, April 30, 2015 2:00 am - Uniontown (PA) Herald-Standard

THE MELTING POT: SPECIAL COLUMN: Ethnic Street Foods: Part 2 - How Ethnic Foods Survived Through Early Mobility

In the last column we learned about the many ethnic foods found in outside venues such as food carts and how these venues kept ethnic foods alive and well.  The precursor to the food carts (that are mainly located in one place) were the old hand-carts, push-carts and smaller animal-drawn carts from early Greek and Roman times.  These food venues had no way of heating or chilling foods so prepared foods were sold.  Carts had the distinct advantage of being able to be moved should a location not be productive in sales, as well as transporting goods to/from storage to the place chosen from which to trade. There were chuck wagons (in the west) and dope wagons (in the south - southern factory work carts were called this because Coca Cola was thought in the early 1900’s to contain cocaine!).  Garment workers, construction men, delivery boys and urban dwellers relied upon the carts for cheap and filling nourishment (meat pies such as Fatayer (middle Eastern meat pie), fresh fruits and varied sandwiches such as a Lahmacun or a Turkish pizza) in the middle of busy days.

The types of foods sold by the push-carts varied:  fruits, vegetables, prepared foods, like potato pancakes, oysters on the half-shell, or pickles. Fruit carts often sold pre-sliced fruit as snacks and often were open later to catch people coming home from work. In the summers, they functioned as a dessert cart of sorts for people lolling outdoors in nice weather. But mostly carts tended to specialize in a particular food type and were often stationed in the same place every week and they offered a basic and necessary service: providing ingredients for meals to their customers at relatively cheap prices.

Ethnic foods that were served on carts (that didn’t need to bechilled or served warm but rather were served at room temperature) were, for example, from Italy:  Minestrone (garden vegetable soup) served with Formaggio (cheese) and Crostini de pane (crusty bread), Vitello e Salsiccia Pane Panini (veal and sausage loaf sandwich), and Sandwich Fritti Pepe (fried pepper sandwich).  From Spain comes Basque Pan del Cuidador (Basque sheepherder’s bread), and Gazpacho (soup made of raw vegetables servedcold or at room temperature, usually with a tomato base and from LatinCountries and SE Asia Empanadas (fried stuffed breads or pastries) .  From Russia and Poland come pirozshki aka perogies (individual-sized baked or fried buns stuffed with a variety of fillings).  

Popular foods from Greece would be pita bread with hummus or wedges of Spanakopita (rich phyllo pie dough baked and stuffed with spinach, onions, cheeses and herbs).  African-Americans could buy cooked greens, black-eyed peas and corn bread for lunch.  An Irishman might eat a Ceapaire Mairteola Corned (corned beef sandwich made with slices of corn beef and buttered rye bread) and pickles. A Swede might eat marinated tomatoes on Buttercrust Brod (bread).  Desserts might include German Kürbis Brot (pumpkin bread), Greek Baklava and Greek Kserotizna (deep fried honey drizzled twists).

NOTE:  Little known fact:  During the early 1900s, the hamburger was thought to be polluted, unsafe to eat, and food for the poor. Street carts, not restaurants, typically served them.


For recipes from 1700s to 1960s and modern day links, visit

www.ThePAMeltingPot.com.  Christine Willard, a native of western Pennsylvania, researches and blogs about the food unique to western Pennsylvania. She currently resides in North Carolina.



















Monday, April 20, 2015

The Melting Pot: PART 1 - How Ethnic Foods Survived 

Through Early Mobility


Posted: Thursday, April 16, 2015 2:00 am - Uniontown (PA) Herald-Standard
PHOTOS BELOW NEWSPAPER COLUMN:
Europeans, Asians and other peoples traveled across Europe, and as they settled and moved, their foods were affected by where they lived, by who ruled them and by various other circumstances.
They came to the United States and brought their ethnic recipes with them. As German, Irish, Italian, Polish, English, French, Russian, Scottish, Scotch-Irish, Ukrainian and other ethnic groups settled in southwestern Pennsylvania they assimilated into society as did their foods.
Previously and today, their foods live on not only in the home, church and other venues but most importantly on the streets through mobile dining.
Food carts come in two basic styles.
One allows the vendor to sit or stand inside and serve food through a window. Another uses all of the room inside the cart for storage and usually some type of grilling surface.
Food carts first appeared at the time of the early Greek and Roman civilizations, with traders converting old hand-carts, push-carts and smaller animal-drawn carts into mobile trading units.
Carts have the distinct advantage of being able to be moved should a location not be productive in sales, as well as transporting goods to/from storage to the place chosen from which to trade. There were chuck wagons (in the west) and dope wagons (southern factory work carts).
The use of these carts gained major ground with the coming of the railways. Mobile customers required food and drink to keep them warm within the early open carriages. Locomotives needed to stop regularly to take on coal and water, and allow their passengers to use the toilets, eat and drink. Few early trains had any form of buffet or dining car so the food carts were perfect.
When passengers did arrive at their destination or when they needed to switch trains or modes of transportation, some refreshment was required, particularly for poorer passengers who could not afford to stay in the railway-owned hotels.
The food carts expanded to concession stands also. Many countries still use these such as in Africa and Southeast Asia.
The first food cart items were ready-made foods.
A summary of ready-made foods, for example, from Germany might be Fleischkase (meatloaf) served with mustard in a roll, from Turkey Shawarma (Levantine Arab meat preparation, where lamb, chicken, turkey, beef, veal, or mixed meats are placed on a spit, and may be grilled for as long as a day), from Hungary a Retes (strudel), from Italy a Margherita pizza (the street version originated in Naples and is rectangular in shape with toppings of margherita, mushrooms, Italian sausage, ham and vegetables), from Poland a Rurki Z Kremem (similar to ice cream cones but filled with whipped cream), from Romania Covrigi (hot pretzels covered in sesame or poppy seeds) and from Slovakia Langos (fried flat bread loaves with garlic and salt or other condiments).
For recipes from 1700s to 1960s and modern day links, visit www.ThePAMeltingPot.com.
Christine Willard, a native of western Pennsylvania, researches and blogs about the food unique to western Pennsylvania. She currently resides in North Carolina.




















Thursday, April 2, 2015

THE PA MELTING POT - Special Edition for Easter and Passover



The Melting Pot:  A look at the evolution of food in southwestern Pa.  
HOLIDAY SPECIAL:  Passover and Easter

Although mainly Jews celebrate Passover (The largest Jewish communities exist in Israel and the United States and other countries including the Russian Federation, France, Poland, Austria, Canada, Argentina, the United Kingdom, Germany, South Africa and Hungary.), I have combined the ethnic foods of Passover and Easter (which is celebrated by Christians) together because celebrations rather they be weddings, religious holidays, christenings, etc. all have something in common:  Ethnic foods. This year Passover is on April 3 - 4 and Easter on April 5.

The gathering of friends and family for these religious observances always involve reflection, prayer and food in any country or area including southwestern Pennsylvania.  Whether the serving of food is done via buffet or at a sit-down dinner the food is the important go-to!  Since western PA is such a melting pot I have researched some of the common foods you might find at celebration tables.

From Napoli or Naples, Italy, the main Easter dishes are the Casatiello or Tortano (a salty pie made with bread dough stuffed with various types of salami and cheese).  Also, typical of Easter is the Fellata (a banquet of salami, capocollo and salty ricotta). Easter cake is the Pastiera (made with ricotta cheese).  Overall,  many Italians may have Minestrone (fresh garden vegetable soup), Arrosto di Agnello (roasted leg of lamb), Braciole in Ragu’ Sauce (Stuffed Meat Rolls) and for dessert fruit flavored desserts are popular such as Composta di frutta (fruit compote made with fresh fruits and ripe berries in season, chopped nuts, liqueur and sweetened whipped cream) and I Gelati Italiani (Italian ices in flavors of lemon, melon and orange).

From Russia and Greece red eggs are popular as is Kulich (a loaf of Easter bread also from Belarus, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Georgia and Serbia) and Strudel (also popular in Hungary). In Greece the traditional meal is Mageiritsa (hearty stew of chopped lamb liver and wild greens seasoned with egg-and-lemon sauce). In the Ukraine there are several traditional foods including Paska (bread) and cheesecake desserts. Tsoureki (Greek) and Pane-di-Pasqua (Italy) are sweet yeast breads with red hard boiled eggs baked in the dough.

A Zazaski (Polish buffet) might have on the table:  Rzodkiewka (radishes), Grzyby marynowane (pickled mushrooms), Caviar, Wybór pieczywa (assorted breads), Musztardą masło (mustard butter), Oprowadzeni sery (assorted cheeses), Buraki cukrowe upodobaniem (beet relish) and Polskie ciasto ser (Polish cheese cake).

From France Passover and Easter foods can include l’Agneau Pascal (lamb roasted with garlic, olive oil and optional are dried “herbes de Provence” - mixture of savory, thyme, lavender, etc.), Torrefie Les Asperges Vertes ET Des Oeufs (roasted asparagus and eggs), Gratin Dauphinois, (potatoes with double cream) and often Fruits for dessert.

From Germany the following might be served:  Fisch gebacken–gratin (baked fish au gratin), Rouladen (beef stuffed and rolled up), Kartoffelknödel (potato dumplings), Lauch Suppe (leek soup) and Konigskuchen (king’s cake).
Jewish Seder Passover foods (from different Jewish countries) might be Chicken soup with Matzo Balls, Borscht (beet soup), Charoses or Haroset (fruit dessert made with apples, cinnamon, honey and sweet wine), Tzimmes (cooked vegetables or fruits-sometimes meat is added), Potato Kugel and Gefilte Fish with horseradish.

Beverages are usually red, white and rose wines and beers.


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 www.ThePAMeltingPot.com.


LINKS BELOW PHOTOS
















JEWISH VIRTUAL LIBRARY


WIKIPEDIA ON EASTER


FOOD AND WINE


FRENCH TODAY


FRENCH FOOD ABOUT


AUNT BABETTE


INTERFAITH FAMILY


FACT MONSTER


WHATS4EATS


DUMMYS


QUICK GERMAN RECIPES