Tourist brochure image
Tourist brochure for Lancaster County, PA 1908. Featured on the cover are two Dunkard (Church of the Brethren) women taken from a local postcard that incorrectly described them as Mennonites. Interest in picturesque Dunkard dress and lifestyle preceded tourist fascination for the Amish. Once the Dunkards gave up plain dress in the 1920s, the Old Order Amish replaced them as an object of Lancaster tourism propaganda.

Pennsylvania map

What is Food Tourism?

Food tourism is an important niche economy constructed around several types of products and services generally of an artisanal or specialty nature. Foremost among these are the showcasing and sale of local foods and regional cookery for visitors whose specific goal is to explore these “off the main road” eating experiences. Part of the driving force behind this industry is the search for and the supply of “authentic” foods that reflect tastes, themes, and historical motifs considered more in tune with real foods of the past. The value judgments motivating food tourism are highly subjective and easily manipulated.


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The Keystone Center

The Keystone Center for the Study of Regional Foods and Food Tourism™, located in the historic Lamb Tavern in Devon, Pennsylvania, is an independent research institute unaffiliated with state or private industry organizations. Its primary purpose is the survey, documentation, and promotion of Pennsylvania’s five regional food identities, their related culinary cultures in Europe, and their diasporas within the United State. Since the Pennsylvania Dutch region alone features over 1600 dishes not documented elsewhere in the country – not to mention the culinary riches of the other four regions, no other state can claim such a wide diversity of traditional foods and foodways within its borders. Thus, the goals of the Center include:

  • The establishment of a complete inventory of Pennsylvania foods and foodways that will appear in a series of Keystone Kitchen books useful to public schools, tourism bureaus, cooking schools, and interested consumers.
  • The creation of educational programs that explore the evolution of Pennsylvania foods and foodways in non-academic settings for the general public, as well as credit courses in conjunction with academic culinary arts programs whereby regional cooking techniques and dishes can be taught to individuals intending to enter the food and hospitality professions. Our goal is to initiate some of these classes in 2016-2017. We are presently working on partnerships with several universities in the state. Please refer to the Events Page for details.
  • The organization of total immersion seminars for chefs and members of the public who want to explore specific foods and their traditional preparation techniques, such as Philadelphia Pepperpot or pretzel baking.
  • The development of a website where information can be posted both about the Center and its activities as well as information useful to travelers coming to Pennsylvania, and eventually online guidebooks to specific topics of general interest – where to find chicken-and-waffle dinners for example.
  • The filming and preparation of DVDs that will serve as verbal and visual cookbooks for teaching regional cooking techniques and recipes.
  • Provide consulting services to local organizations, businesses, and the tourism industry on methods for increasing an awareness of Pennsylvania foods and sustainable agricultural products in order to augment the growth of jobs and employment in this dynamic sector of the state economy. Our primary goal is to improve the content and quality of marketing material and to help launch marketing campaigns focused on particular Pennsylvania products and foods.
  • Use the Roughwood Seed Collection as a tool for disseminating information about Pennsylvania’s lesser known heritage food plants and to help introduce these foods back into the marketplace. In accordance with this objective, the Keystone Center™ is planting rare Tutelo Strawberry Corn and Delaware Indian Puhwem Flour corn in isolation at Mill Hollow Farm (Delaware County, PA) for eventual commercial increase. Keystone will also oversee the planting of the Pennsylvania Dutch Kitchen Garden at the Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center in Kutztown, Pennsylvania during the 2016 growing season.

What are Regional Foods?

White RadishRegional foods and foodways (food customs) are the distinct identity foods and dishes that set an area apart from its neighbors. Regional food evolves out of cultural preferences and terroir (natural determinants of the soil), and therefore are partially shaped by agricultural practices and climate. Scrapple (a species of pork liver-based pot-pudding akin to sausage filling) is a regional food distinctive to southeastern Pennsylvania. It developed out of Pennsylvania Dutch customs based on fall and winter butchering, at which time scrapple was served as a hot porridge to everyone who participated in the butchering event. It was originally a dish only eaten during the winter. As another example, the muskrat cookery of South Jersey evolved due to the presence of marshlands along the Delaware River and Bay and a local trapping industry focused on the collection and processing of muskrat pelts, thus leaving an abundance of carcasses for culinary purposes.
A third type of regional food includes food products that originated in a specific place, such as the Seckel Pear, which was discovered near Philadelphia in the late eighteenth century and named for Lorenz Seckel, the wine merchant who owned the original tree. Other food products of this type from our region include the Brandywine Tomato (introduced in 1889 by Philadelphia seedsmen Johnson & Stokes), the Philadelphia White Box Radish (1888), Philadelphia Dutch Butter lettuce, and the Smokehouse Apple of York County. All of these heirloom fruits and vegetables are still available in local markets today.

This website was made possible by the generous support of the following individuals:

Rob Cardillo, Photographer
Glenside, PA

Susan Lovdjieff-Levin, Website Designer
Devon, PA

Eric Miller, Vintner
Chaddsford Winery, Chadds Ford, PA

Signe Sundberg-Hall, Artist
Downingtown, PA

Grace Wicks, Urban Garden Designer
Philadelphia, PA