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 Penns Woods to the fullest
in the log cabins at S. B. Elliott State Park.
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 Penns Woods, with each statement I felt myself
puffing like a ruffed grouse, full of pride for my state.
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 Martins Ferry, Ohio.
I quickly dropped my hand. Then she asked, "How many are
not?" and I lamely held my hand at half-mast.
had never thought of myself as not a native Pennsylvanian. Here
I am so proud of my stateand Im technically not native.
Im a (gulp) Buckeye!
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.
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.
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.
two-thirds of the recipes in this book have been published previously
by the Centre
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
just because the CDT
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.
for the Centre
has been my opportunity to participate in the living journal of
our times. Life here in Central Pennsylvania is very goodlook
at the crime statistics. People here care about one anotherlook
at the announcements about service activities. And folks that
live here take great delight in eating welllook at all the
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.
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 residentsmostly temporary, though
many become rooted and never leaveflows 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.