Centre County offers
a particularly appropriate vantage point from which to view Pennsylvania
in terms of indigenous cuisine. Located right in the center of
the Commonwealth, and surrounded by rural towns and countryside,
it has become an island of regional specialties that make use
of a fantastic natural abundance in time-honored ways.
The Pennsylvania State University draws sons
and daughters of a vast number of the Commonwealth's citizenry
into the area, bringing with them their own food preferences.
International students create their own microcosms of diversity
that are unmatched by any other geographic area of similar size
in the state. A sophistication spurred by foreign travel, along
with the entertainment demands of the university and local corporations,
makes the cuisine of Central Pennsylvania well worth serious study
William Penn's letter to the Free Society of
Traders in 1683 described the native populationthe Lenni
Lenape, or "Original People," as they called themselvesas
generous and social:
in Liberality they excel, nothing is too good for their friend;
give them a fine Gun, Coat or other thing, it may pass twenty
hands, before it sticks; light of Heart, strong Affections,
but soon spent; the most merry Creatures that live, Feast and
Dance perpetually; they never have much, nor want much: Wealth
circulateth like the Blood, all parts partake; and though none
shall want what the other hath, yet exact Observers of Property.
Some Kings have sold, others presented me with several parcels
of land, the Pay or Presents I made them were not hoarded by
the particular Owners. . . . We sweat and toil to live; their
pleasure feeds them, I mean, their Hunting, Fishing and Fowling,
and this Table is spread every where; they eat twice a day,
Morning and Evening; their Seats and Table are the Ground.
inherently joyful approach toward food is alive today in Central
Pennsylvania, as testified by the large number of outdoors experiences
that are food related. Hunting season, fishing season, and game-bird
season all bring significant numbers of people to the area to
participate. The Lenni Lenape philosophy is still very much a
part of the essential character of Central Pennsylvania, and put
into practice by a great number of residents and visitors alike.
Indeed, "their pleasure feeds them."