Published September 5, 2017

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I’ve heard folkways involving what you eat called “foodways.” And as someone who definitely lives b my stomach, the foodways of my youth take on some extra importance.

Old-fashioned Lemon Pie (aka “Lemon Strip” Pie)

Of course, whne I talk about “the food of my youth,” the first thing that should be said is that I was widely said to be “sneaky,” which was a Pennsylvania Dutch way of saying finicky.

Now it’s fairly common for children to turn their noses up at vegetables, but there were precious few dishes at home that I really loved. My favorite food was fried chicken. On the fairly rare instances in which our family went out ot eat, my search of the menu usually began and ended when fried chicken or some variant was found.

The college years would end my “sneakiness” (OK, at least as far as food!) and greatly expand my “approved” list – the only big category of things I continue to avoid are dishes with “visible onions.”

But back to childhood and those foodways. They are intense memories that I consider as prime a part of my family history as the names, dates, records and material culture such as certificates and family Bibles.

And what I’ve come to realize along the way is how personalized many of these foodways are.

One memory was spurred by a newspaper food columnist discovering “corn pies.” I’ve encountered corn pies – usually corn, eggs, maybe potatoes and broth encased with a pie-like shell over the top – throughout eastern Pennsylvania. But in my family, at least, corn pies always had a meat. Usually it was chicken, while turkey was used as part of leftovers from holiday meals and a couple of times my mother tried out steamed clams!

Another memory gets activated every summer when I indulge in a type of pie I’ve only ever seen made by the congregations that once composed Bern Union Church in Berks County. It’s called either “Old-fashioned Lemon” or “Lemon Strip” (never heard these combined into “Old-fashioned Lemon Strip” even though you’d think that would make sense).

The pie is definitely an acquired taste – the thickened dark golden “goop” filling is pretty tart and the brown cookie dough-consistency strips are tough to cut. But somehow, this became the only piece I wished to eat (Such as favorite it was that I recall when I helped at church suppers, I’d ask Frances Vollmer, the dowager empress of the cake and pie table, to hold back a slice of the lemon strip for when the help had a chance to eat after the supper concluded) .

I’m sure there are many others whose food ways are as localized and “family-ized,” May that they all be fondly remembered!

1 Comment

  1. Rick Bender

    7 months ago  

    Hmmm . . . Moving from the Philly suburbs to New Mexico when I was ten has probably really messed up my foodways! I still enjoy the meat-and-potatoes and gravies of my youth in PA, but now I’m just as likely to hunger for green chile stew, chile rellenos and calabacitas.
    I guess if you stay in your cultural vicinity then the foodways (folkways) remain part of your culture. But if you leave and acquire new tastes, that probably isn’t enough for you become part of that new culture. (I’m not Hispanic because I crave Mexican foods; however, I can wonder if maybe that makes me less Pennsylvania Dutch!)
    I love chicken-fried steak — maybe that can be the compromise position. — Rick