I would say that my ethnic heritage has a reasonably significant impact on my tastes. I’ve thoroughly documented my Italian blood, and given you a look at the best of my English background. And, of course, my prodigious beer intake perfectly illustrates my Irish ancestry. The one bit of lineage that has always been given short shrift was the German roots of my family tree, though a recent trip to the Pennsylvania countryside had me questioning what that is.
Any time you head north and west of Philadelphia, it’s clear that you’re headed out into Pennsylvania Dutch country. (Confused as to why we’re talking about Germany and saying Dutch? Go here.) The rolling farmland hills and the sight of hex signs on the barns can conjure up thoughts of German-style sausages and some amazing baked goods. So when Mrs. TVFF and I worked out a deal for a new car up in Quakertown, I put out word for any food suggestions and our very own ML came through in a big way.
ML pointed me toward Fleck’s a bakery in a flea market that had the best sticky buns in the area. If you’re not familiar with sticky buns, take a cinnamon roll, drench it in syrup and top it with chopped nuts and raisins. It’s a triumph of German baking. I apologize that the photo was a hastily-shot camera-phone picture, but I needed to taunt ML with my bounty and I knew that they’d be half devoured by the time we even got them to the car. The buns are chewy, the nuts crunchy and the syrup is lick-your-fingers delicious.
It reminded me how simple, rich and satisfying Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine can be, and how many of the dishes made their way onto our table when I was growing up.
It may be true that sticky buns, apple dumplings and funnel cake — three fantastic PA Dutch deserts — can make you think that the best they have to offer comes in the form of sweets, but the savory dishes are fantastic as well. An assortment of sausages and delicious sauerkraut are some of the more common German dishes that have found a home in the Pennsylvania countryside, but local specialties like scrapple, Lebanon bologna and bot boi are a testament to the kind of down-home country cooking that you don’t expect north of the Mason-Dixon.