The Allegheny Highlands form the backbone of Pennsylvania and serve as a link to the Upper South. While the Keystone Center has designated this as one region, it may actually represent two or three sub-regions: the northernmost counties and their orientation toward New York State, the central counties focused on Greater Pittsburgh, and the southwestern counties that are more southern in character. Furthermore the Ohio River serves as yet another link to the South and the food exchanges that inevitably occurred as the result of river trade.
This is also a region of stark economic dichotomies: the poverty of Appalachia on the one hand, as represented by the picture of the log house, and the extraordinary wealth of Pittsburgh, as expressed by the 1910 photo of the interior of the Rathskeller in the Café Kleman, where Pittsburgh’s rich and powerful once congregated. This photograph is taken from a 28-page menu featuring the best cuisine of the Gilded Age.
The farm-to-table movement is very strong in Pittsburgh and is now encouraging a new look at local food specialties. Keystone Board Member Jenny Bardwell has written a book on salt raised bread, one of the many unique foods that define this part of the state. Other dishes like “plug mush,” shortbread Johnny cakes, ramp cookery, and the cuisine of the riverboats that once connected Pittsburgh to New Orleans are all part of a fascinating culinary history that needs further exploration.
Genevieve Bardwell and Susan Ray Brown, Salt Rising Bread. Pittsburgh: St. Lynn’s
Press, 2016. Available at Amazon.com
Editors of St. Lynn’s Press, Ramps: The Cookbook. Pittsburgh: St. Lynn’s Press, 2012.
Available at Amazon.com