In the fall of 1998 I attended a community workshop entitled "Restating Pennsylvania: Discussions on Our History, Culture, and Identity" held on the sweeping grounds of Centre Furnace Mansion, home of the Centre County Historical Society. It was a breezy Sunday afternoon in late September, and the trees rustled with the dry rattle of late summer. Fifty or so people were already seated under a canopy when I arrived at the last minute, just returning from a family camping trip where we enjoyed Penn’s Woods to the fullest in the log cabins at S. B. Elliott State Park.
    I listened to the end of the panelists’ introductions and heard their thoughts about what it means to be a Pennsylvanian. For one person, it was the sweet scent of a newly mown hayfield. For another, it was the smell of chocolate in Hershey. Pennsylvania historian Bill Pencak related facts that made me more proud of Pennsylvania with each statement: how the state was a trendsetter, having no military presence for its first seventy-five years; how during those first seventy-five years it welcomed people from various parts of Europe; how it was an antislavery state; how it played a pivotal role in the newly developing American government, from its birth in Independence Hall until the national government was moved to Washington, D.C.; how the canals and railroads that traversed its challenging mountainous regions made it a forerunner in the transportation field; how the oil boom began in Titusville; how labor unions originated in Pittsburgh. The list continued. Combined with my euphoria from having spent the previous forty-eight hours literally in Penn’s Woods, with each statement I felt myself puffing like a ruffed grouse, full of pride for my state.
    Suddenly moderator Dr. Carla Mulford posed a question to the crowd: "How many present are native Pennsylvanians?" My hand shot up, along with the hands of about half those present. Wait a minute, I thought. My birth certificate reads Martin’s Ferry, Ohio. I quickly dropped my hand. Then she asked, "How many are not?" and I lamely held my hand at half-mast.
    Funny–I had never thought of myself as not a native Pennsylvanian. Here I am so proud of my state–and I’m technically not native. I’m a (gulp) Buckeye!
    Unusual circumstances caused me to be born on the banks of the Ohio River. My mother was eight months pregnant when she received a telephone call informing her of the death of her father, a shot-fire man who set dynamite charges in a coal mine in southeastern Ohio. A ricocheting rock killed him. So, though my parents lived in Philadelphia, I came to be born in Ohio on the day my grandfather was buried, and I lived there for two months until my mother was able to travel back east.
    Though not native-born to Pennsylvania, I am very close. My roots on opposite ends of the state have helped me to feel quite grounded here in the middle, in the town of State College, where I have lived since 1970. Straddling the state from the sophisticated and ethnic conclaves of Philadelphia to the simpler, earth-related focus of the rural folkways of the Ohio River valley, I have been granted an excellent vantage point right in the middle, digesting the best of both worlds.
Much of the discussion at the forum concerned sense of place and the unifying element that makes Pennsylvanians truly Pennsylvanians. For me, and I believe for many others, it is food. After all, we are basically just organisms continually seeking nourishment, in the hope of evolving. Our strongest memories come from foods prepared for us by our mothers, from smells that open the floodgates of emotion, from our visceral connection. We have become what we have eaten. When we eat from our environs, we become our environs in a most elemental way.
Approximately two-thirds of the recipes in this book have been published previously by the Centre Daily Times during the fifteen years that I have been writing local food features. Many of the photographs have also already appeared there too. All this testifies to an abiding commitment to community journalism on the part of the CDT. This book would not have been possible without the support of the Centre Daily Times–not just because the CDT made the original photos available for reprint, but also in a more basic sense: If I had not had a deadline, these stories would never have been written in the first place.
    Writing for the Centre Daily Times has been my opportunity to participate in the living journal of our times. Life here in Central Pennsylvania is very good–look at the crime statistics. People here care about one another–look at the announcements about service activities. And folks that live here take great delight in eating well–look at all the food features.
In the brief spotlight my subjects enjoyed in the newspaper, I made note of the impact that their interests or special accomplishments have had in our community. This book will make those moments of glory less ephemeral and help them to reach a larger audience.
The recipes and article excerpts in these pages showcase the largesse of the state. Much of the raw material is available for the gathering or is easy to cultivate or obtain. The entire book is a celebration of the seasons and begins with fall, the inaugural period here. At that time a wave of new residents–mostly temporary, though many become rooted and never leave–flows into State College. Every September the town and surrounding environs become highly energized serving and assimilating that influx. This book will enable all those new or temporary residents to realize the extraordinary natural gifts of the region and to participate in the culinary communion that we share.


fall winter spring