So what exactly is a “regional” food, you might ask? (ok, you wouldn’t ask that, but just play along for the sake of the blog). A food might be regional because of the availability of unique local ingredients, because of a particular need in the local population, or perhaps because early settlers brought along their favorite recipes. Alaska’s salmon (locally available) fits the first description, Michigan Upper Peninsula’s pasties (perfect for taking into the mines) the second, and North Dakota’s fleischkuekle (brought over from Germany) the third. Whatever the origin, regional dishes add a lot of flavor to our travels.
This weekend we visited Pennsylvania Dutch country and we stayed over at another of PATC’s amazing cabins, Milesburn. It was built in 1930 and is very well maintained, one of the more memorable PATC properties.
On the way we visited Gettysburg Battlefield, which I would highly recommend. I’m not really much of a Civil War buff, but the National Park Service has done a nice job of creating self-guiding tours and the park itself is full of live Civil War re-enactors as well as sculptures and statues. Nearly 50,000 soldiers were lost on the battlefields of Gettysburg over three days in July of 1863–hard to imagine. We also visited Gettysburg National Cemetery, site of Lincoln’s Gettysburg address and the final resting place for more than 3500 Union soldiers. It is a powerful place.
As we planned our visit to Gettysburg, we briefly considered a weekend menu featuring foods that were typical for Civil War soldiers—more historical foods than regional foods. And then we read that Civil War rations included hard tack, dried pork, and “dessiccated vegetables.” Never mind.
As for regional cuisine, one of the classic Pennsylvania Dutch recipes is Bova Shankel–a pierogi-type dish of potato dumplings and sauce. Literally translated from German, it means “boy’s legs,” which sounds totally disgusting–right up until one imagines eating dessiccated vegetables.
Whatever you call it, Bova Shankel is a delightful dish that deserves exposure well beyond south central Pennsylvania. The filling included potatoes, onions, celery and parsley, and the dish is served in a sauce of butter and milk. We made both the dough and the filling ahead of time, so prep wasn’t too hard at the cabin– just a quick assembly and then boiling for 30 minutes. We served it with salad, German-style pork sausage, and beef soup. Supposedly there is a different soup for just about every day of the year…and April 9 seemed like beef to us.
On the drive home we spent a little time talking about our favorite regional dishes (hey, it beats auto bingo). Souzz raved about a rhubarb pie that she bought at a gas station in Tower City, North Dakota (seriously), while for me it was probably the boiled peanuts we picked up in South Carolina. Dessiccated vegetables didn’t make either of our lists.