Tuesday, August 11, 2015


THE MELTING POT: SPECIAL COLUMN: Ethnic Street Foods: Part 7 - How Ethnic Food production became a business through the first implementation of food carts.  (photos at bottom of the page)

The Pittsburgh area got put on the INTERNATIONAL food MAP with the forming of the H.J. Heinz Company founded by German Jews (Ashkenazic) (Heinz comes from a pet form of the personal name Heinrich.)  Henry John Heinz began selling horseradish from a “horse drawn cart” in 1869. The Heinz Company expanded dramatically in 1890 with the construction of its factory in Allegheny City (now a part of Pittsburgh known as the North Side). After the founder's death in 1919, his son, Howard Heinz, took over the company; he was succeeded by his son, H. J. "Jack" Heinz II, in 1941. When Jack Heinz died in 1987, the first non-family member, Anthony O'Reilly, became president and CEO. Over the years, the Heinz Company has marketed minced meat, pickles, vinegar, and tomato ketchup, and is now a multi-billion dollar international food processing company. 

Heinz emphasized the purity of his product and chose to use clear, colorless bottles and jars so customers could see for themselves exactly what they were buying. He went to great lengths to maintain clean conditions in his factories for employees, practicing a paternalistic approach to management and employer-employee relations, demonstrated by the auditorium, roof garden, dining rooms, and a library he constructed for the benefit of his employees.

The H. J. Heinz Company, or Heinz, is an American food processing company with world headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The H. J. Heinz Company manufactures thousands of food products in plants on six continents, and markets these products in more than 200 countries and territories such as the United States, Australia, Canada, India, Indonesia, Netherlands, Philippines, the United Kingdom being among the top countries.

The company claims to have 150 number-one or number two-brands worldwide and sells over 5700 different products. Heinz ranked first in ketchup in the US with a market share in excess of 50%.  Some of the American brands are: Classico sauces, Ore-Ida potatoes, TGI Fridays, Delimex Tortillas, Lea & Perrins Worcester Sauce, Weight Watchers, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, Kraft Miracle Whip, Jell-O, Kool Aid, Maxwell House, Kraft Cool Whip, Athenos, Planters, Grey Poupon, Country Time, A-1 Sauce, Oscar Mayer, Kraft Stove Top, Tang, Claussen, Kraft Cracker Barrel, Lunchables, Kraft Philadelphia Cream Cheese, and Crystal Light. 

On February 14, 2013, Heinz agreed to be purchased by Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Capital for $23 billion.  On March 25, 2015 Kraft announced its merger with Heinz arranged by Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Capital.  

The merger took place in July and the resulting Kraft Heinz Company is expected to be the fifth largest food company in the world.  The combined company, which will be called the Kraft Heinz Co., will have revenue of about $28 billion.  All this from a start on a horse drawn cart and the manufacture of horseradish from an old family recipe in a basement. 
Mission Statement:  “As the trusted leader in nutrition and wellness, Heinz – the original Pure Food Company – is dedicated to the sustainable health of people, the planet and our Company.

Since 1896, the company has used its "57 Varieties" slogan; it was inspired by a sign advertising 21 styles of shoes, and Henry Heinz chose the number 57 even though the company manufactured more than 60 products at the time.

Berkshire Hathaway became a majority owner of Heinz on June 18, 2015. After exercising a warrant to acquire 46,195,652 shares of common stock for a total price of $461,956.52 increasing its stake to 52.5%.

Products are produced and sold in several countries across the world and the diversity of the foods is amazing: ITALIAN and one of the most famous brands is Classico which produces:  Tomato Cream Sauces, Red Sauces, Family Favorites, Alfredo Sauces. Pesto and Bruschetta, Pizza Sauces.



1.    Pickling time line  http://www.nyfoodmuseum.org/_ptime.htm

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, August 6, 2015

THE MELTING POT: SPECIAL COLUMN: Ethnic Street Foods: Part 5 – The Kiosk Then and Now

THE MELTING POT: SPECIAL COLUMN: Ethnic Street Foods: Part 5 – The Kiosk Then and Now

Today, there are many kiosks around the word.  The word kiosk can be used interchangeably with the terms: small booths, food carts, food trucks, trailers or other on-the-go food businesses both portable and stationary offering goods, services, foods and other items for sale. 

In the US and other countries food kiosks are generally used indoors in rented or leased spaces in malls, arenas, conference centers, hotels, airports, and similar locations. Larger, outdoor kiosks can be used at amusement parks and party sites.  Also in many countries all you need is a sidewalk where you can set up a kiosk.

Often, modern foods were invented from street food offerings.  French fries probably originated as a street food consisting of fried strips of potato in Paris in the 1840s.  Cracker Jack started as one of many street food exhibits at the (Chicago – 1893) Columbian Exposition.  Ice cream cones were the invention of a vendor at the St. Louis Exposition (1904).  He ran out of containers to serve the ice cream in and next door was a waffle stand so he housed the ice cream in the waffles.  Voila!  The modern ice cream waffled cone came about!!

Originally brought to Japan by Chinese immigrants about a hundred years ago, ramen (noodles) began as a street food for laborers and students, but soon became a "national dish" and even acquired regional variations.  The street food culture of South East Asia today was heavily influenced by coolie workers imported from China during the late 1800s.

In Thailand, although street food and stands did not become popular among native Thai people until the early 1960s when the urban population began to grow rapidly, by the 1970s it had "displaced home-cooking."

Street food vending is found around the world, but has variations within both regions and cultures.  For example, it has been said that the street food of Vietnam was "fresh and lighter than many of the cuisines in the area" and "drawing heavily on herbs, chili peppers and lime", while in contrast the street food of Thailand is "fiery" and "pungent with shrimp paste ... and fish sauce".

In the 1950’s along came the United States Army wagon with interior shelving and drawers, and stocked with kitchenware, food and medical supplies. Food consisted of dried beans, coffee, cornmeal, greasy cloth-wrapped bacon, salt pork, beef, usually dried or salted or smoked, and other easy to preserve food stuffs. The wagon was also stocked with a water barrel and a sling to kindle wood to heat and cook food.
In western PA in the 1950’s and 1960’s food cards aka kiosks came about:   1950’s – Ice cream trucks begin selling their frozen treats and did until into the 1990’s.  The 1960’s provided Roach Coaches (Mobile food trucks, or "roach coaches," which have been around for years giving the worker easy access to an affordable grab-and-go lunch).  

Locally, one of the early ethnic foods sold from kiosks included pretzels which originated in Germany and became popular in the US.  Lititz, a city outside of Lancaster in Pennsylvania Dutch country is said to be the birthplace of the American pretzel from a German recipe.  William Sturgis, supposedly baked the first American pretzel in 1861.  Viable pretzel products today sold in kiosks could be: Peanut Butter Pretzel Granola Bars, Peanut Butter Chocolate Pretzel Truffles, Parmesan Ranch Snack Mix, Waffled Soft Pretzels and Caramel Pretzel Popcorn.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015



Western Pa’s ethnicity just cries out for available ethnic street foods:  German, Polish, Hispanic, Greek, Italian, etc.  Although traditionally western Pennsylvania’s usual signature street food is the hot do , offerings by the Downtown and North Side street VENDORS (aka kiosks) range from a creative German food cart which offers Bulletten (meatballs served with an egg on top on a bun with grainy mustard and a pickle) and Das Lamb (kebabs served on flat bread with cabbage, roasted vegetables and a spicy mayo sauce) to a taco truck aka kiosk which serves Mexican and other tacos:  one could be local ground beef w/ cheddar jack and fresh salsa or another could be grilled chicken w/ cheddar jack, fresh salsa or spicy jerk chicken w/avocado-lime cream or Thai peanut chicken w/sweet chili slaw.  More food vendors serve from Greek brisket gyros to Polish pierogies to Asian spicy dumplings to Japanese seaweed salad and to Italian Neapolitan style pizzas.

In larger cities in the world you might find from spicy Middle Eastern falafel to Jamaican jerk chicken to Belgian waffles.  In Hawaii the local street food tradition of "Plate Lunch" (rice, macaroni salad and a portion of meat) was inspired by the Japanese plantation workers’ Bento Box. In Denmark there are sausage and hot dog wagons.

Differences in culture, social status and history have resulted in different patterns on how family street vendor enterprises are traditionally created and run in different areas. For example, few women are street vendors in Bangladesh, but women predominate in the trade in Nigeria and Thailand.   The Filipino cultural attitudes towards meals is one "cultural factor operating in the street food phenomenon" in the Philippines because eating "food out in the open, in the market or street or field" is "not at odds with the meal indoors or at home" where "there is no special room for dining".

Walking on the street while eating is considered rude in some cultures such as in Japan or Swahili cultures, although it is acceptable for children.  In India, there is a "marked distinction between food that could be eaten outside, especially by women," and the food prepared and eaten at home.

In Tanzania's Dar es Salaam region, street food vendors produce economic benefits beyond their families by purchasing local fresh foods which has led to a proliferation of urban gardens and small scale farms. 

In the United States street food vendors are credited with supporting the rapid growth of cities by supplying meals for the city's merchants and workers. Proprietors of street food in the United States have had a goal of upward mobility, moving from selling on the street to their own shops.  

However, in Mexico, an increase in street vendors has been seen as a sign of deteriorating economic conditions in which food vending is the only employment opportunity that unskilled labor who have migrated from rural areas to urban areas are able to find.

As of 2011, street stalls/kiosks remain the primary outlet for consumer foodservice demand for a large portion of the world’s population. Serving fast, affordable and often local fare, street vendors are a key part of the foodservice landscape in many of the world’s fastest growing markets. It is reported that  there is a special focus on opportunities for global food chains to leverage the flexibility offered by kiosk formats which will continue to add to the street vendor phenomenon.

THE PA MELTING POT: How ethnic foods survived through mobility - Vietnamese Floating Markets - Part 2

The Melting Pot: SPECIAL COLUMN: Part 2: Vietnamese and the mobility of the Vietnamese “floating markets”

Food and other shopping in the US is much different from shopping in Viet Nam.  We drive to grocery, specialty, clothing, farmers’ markets/stands, etc. to obtain our goods but we don’t have markets like they do in the Mekong Delta!!

In Viet Nam every morning before dawn, farmers and vendors from the surrounding countryside load narrow wooden boats and large-hulled freighters with the recent harvest and other goods. They chug past broad lilies and lotus blooms, through shallow tributaries lined with bamboo houses, to the nearest local market or to park and sell their goods. They paint eyes on the bows of their boats. The arched vessels look toward the sky, while the low-lying local boats peer into their native silt-stained waters.  On each boat, goods are hung on bamboo poles that are called “cay beo”. Hundreds of such poles point sky-wards. Boats also operate like “taxis” which is very convenient for tourists around the region. 

An army of sampans, painted with bright colors (yellows, blues and reds) jockey for position as radiant pineapples, taro root, coconuts, pumpkins, bananas, pomelos (the largest of the citrus fruits, with a thick yellow skin and bitter pulp that resembles grapefruit in flavor), longan (juicy fruit related to the lychee), jackfruit, pineapples,  watermelons, mangoes, durians (a stinky fruit with a divine taste, so they say), bananas, oranges, coconuts,  squash, cabbage, onions, greens, change hands with the speed of light, along with fistfuls of crumpled Vietnamese Dong bills. Besides fruits, local products like snakes, birds, turtles, pot-bellied pigs, etc. are easy to find.

Although they are floating markets, services are available, foods and drinks on small boats twist and turn to serve hungry sellers and buyers. When someone wants to buy the products, they only need to whistle or wave.

Markets can be extremely large: 400 to 500 boats filled with fruits, vegetables, and other products are anchor along the banks of the river.  On the floating markets you not only find people buying and selling, but you will also find floating restaurants, bars, gas stations, and many other stores. Canals in the area are simply the easiest and fastest means of transportation.
Shoppers come by land and water, and as they stumble from boat to boat, they often interrupt their shopping to enjoy bowls of noodles on open fires in the special ‘fast food’ sampans.

Products favored by urban gastronomers would be seafood, wild birds, cao (regional Vietnamese dish made with noodles, pork, and local greens), cu dat (specialty dishes), stork and dove which are sold at the market. Other dishes could include Pho (soup made from beef stock, spices, noodles and thinly sliced beef or chicken), Bun Cha (grilled pork and noodles), Bun Thang (vermicelli soup with chicken, egg and pork), Da Cua (Crab noodles), Com Chay (rice crackers), Mien Luon (eel soup), Bun Bo (spicy lemongrass noodle soup), My Quang (rice noodles tinted yellow with turmeric and proteins are usually shrimp, pork, chicken, fish),  Pho Kho (dry noodles), Banh Khot (miniature rice pancakes), Goi Cuon (spring rolls), Com Mien Cua (meat with vermicelli soup), Hu Tieu Xao (deep fried seafood, pork and beef with noodles), and Banh Ca Cua (crab meat with rice noodles).

For recipes & links from 1700s to the present visit ww.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.