Pennsylvania Dutch Term Paper

Pages: 5 (1752 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 3  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Agriculture

¶ … American culinary sub-region of the Pennsylvania Dutch. Specifically, it will cover some of the influences on the foods and cooking of the Pennsylvania Dutch, and discuss some of the regions' most popular dishes and specialties. The Pennsylvania Dutch inhabit rural areas of southeastern Pennsylvania, and their cooking is a unique blend of their lifestyle, history, culture, and local influences. Really a blend of several different religious orders from Amish to Mennonite, the Dutch are not Dutch at all, but really German immigrants who brought many food traditions with them when the immigrated to America.

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While there are Amish and Mennonite settlements in several U.S. states, the heaviest concentration is located in southeastern Pennsylvania, hence the term Pennsylvania Dutch, which includes all people of the area. This area of Pennsylvania is covered with gently rolling hills and rich earth, and it is the perfect place for farmers, which the Pennsylvania Dutch are. Cookbook author Betty Groff wrote of the farms of the area, "Their vegetable and flower gardens are so lush and immaculate that they could be mistaken for a horticultural college's test plots" (Groff 2). This lush farmland led to the development of a rich agricultural heritage, and many of the items grown end up on the family table for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Another expert on the Dutch writes, "In 1799 Thomas Hill described the Pennsylvania Dutch farmers as 'the most early rising, hard working people I ever saw.' Many of them, especially the 'plain people,' are still that. They have never been afraid of hard work or of getting their hands dirty" (Klees 192). They chose the perfect agricultural area to settle when the came to America, and they have continued their agricultural heritage ever since, based on the geography of the fertile farmlands of Pennsylvania.

Term Paper on Pennsylvania Dutch Assignment

Because the Dutch live in such an agricultural paradise, there are numerous local ingredients available for their cuisine. They grow an abundance of vegetable and grain crops, and the area is quite rich in chickens, cattle, and pigs. The Lancaster County web site notes, "Lancaster County has 45 million broilers, 10 million laying hens, 95,000 dairy cows, 250,000 beef cattle and 335,000 hogs. Those numbers, combined with exceptional fertile soil, have made Lancaster the most productive non-irrigated farming county in the United States" (Editors). Many area farmers sell their produce in roadside stands, or at farmers' markets throughout the area. The local ingredients are diverse, and run from native berries and plants to fresh trout from local streams and nuts from various hickory and walnut trees native to the area (Groff 2-5). Because the Dutch rely mostly on fresh ingredients for their cooking, it is imperative that they have a wide variety of local ingredients available throughout the year for their cuisine. When they came to America, they chose the perfect area to live when they chose southeastern Pennsylvania, because the countryside is a rich agricultural area that also offers many local, native ingredients for cooking and canning.

History and culture (including immigration patterns)

The first Pennsylvania Dutch came to America from the Rhineland of Germany because of religious persecution and the Thirty Years' War, which devastated Germany. They came to America in great numbers during the seventeenth century. During that time, American William Penn (who Pennsylvania is named after), visited the area and invited the people to immigrate to America. Many of them took his advice, and came to America to begin a new life (Klees 137-138). They chose the fertile valleys and hills of southeastern Pennsylvania as their new home because they were agricultural families in Europe, they recognized great land, and it was fairly close to the metropolitan center of Philadelphia. Historian Klees continues, "The Pennsylvania Dutch farmer of the eighteenth century combined general farming with the raising of livestock. This is still the pattern of many farms in the Dutch country, especially in Berks County; and it was this method of farming that spread to the prairie states of the Middle West" (Klees 194). Thus, the lifestyle and immigration of the Dutch to America created a new form of agriculture based not on the village, but on individual farms that were dependent on themselves for their sustenance. The Dutch were actually German, and spoke a dialect of German, (which many of them still speak), but the Americans anglicized their language to Dutch from "Deutch" (which means German), and they have been known as the Pennsylvania Dutch ever since. They brought many of their traditional German foods to America with them, such as noodles (spatzle), sauerkraut, Wiener schnitzel, and many other tradition European dishes that have become part of the Pennsylvania Dutch traditional fare.

Politics plays very little role in the Dutch household, or in their cuisine. However, the religious beliefs of the Pennsylvania Dutch are a great influence on their foods. The Old Order Amish and Mennonites do not believe in modern technology, and this has a lasting influence on everything they do. They live by candle and oil light, they cook over wood or coal fires, and they work extremely hard, so they eat a lot of rich, hearty food that gives them energy and sticks to the ribs. Their religious beliefs dictate their entire lifestyle and quality of life, and have a great influence over the fresh, non-processed foods they eat. The women work at home, mainly in the kitchen. They cook three meals a day, can food, bake, and take care of the house vegetable gardens. They use almost no processed foods, and rely on fresh, native ingredients to create traditional dishes for their family, which is the central unit of the Pennsylvania Dutch home. As historian Klees continues,

These farms were as self-sustaining as it was possible for them to be. A large variety of fruit and vegetables was dried for winter use, for this was long before the sealed glass jar had been thought of, and only the richest preserves would keep in crocks covered with paper. Meats were smoked over hickory or salted in brine for the winter. Honey and maple sugar took the place of "store" sugar. Even the clothes on their backs and the cloth stretched over the hoops of the Conestoga wagons were spun at home from flax and hemp grown on the farm or the wool of their sheep. Their very shoes were often made on the farm (Klees 194).

Thus, their ability to sustain themselves and insulate themselves from the outside world not only enhances their religious beliefs, but also creates their dependence on locally grown foods and livestock.

The economy of the Pennsylvania Dutch country is heavily based on agriculture and tourism. Visitors flock to the area to experience the Pennsylvania Dutch lifestyle, including their cuisine. Numerous restaurants cater to tourists who want to experience the traditional recipes of the area, from Shoofly Pie to Schnitz and Knepp (Apples and Dumplings) and Fastnacht (Doughnuts). Thus, the economy helps keep traditional recipes and dishes in the forefront of tourism and discovery. The agricultural economy adds to the fresh ingredients used in Dutch cooking, and the tourism encourages the heritage of traditional recipes and dishes.

If anything, the Pennsylvania Dutch people are known for their lack of technological advances. While some do use modern conveniences such as electricity, telephones, and automobiles, the Old Order Amish and Mennonites do not rely on modern technology at all for their lifestyle. Because of this, they work hard on their farms all day, and their food choices illustrate this demanding lifestyle. They use horse- or mule-drawn plows in their fields, harvest by hand, and utilize much of what they raise in their recipes.

Clearly, the region, the religion, the history, and the culture of the Pennsylvania Dutch all add great influence to their foods and cuisine. Much of the women's work is spent in the kitchen. Breakfast is traditionally the lightest meal of the day, but it still contains fresh eggs, sausage, bacon, or ham, fresh baked bread or biscuits, and of course, coffee or tea. A traditional breakfast meat is Scrapple, which is made of fresh ground pork cooked with seasonings and cornmeal, then baked in a loaf pan (Groff 113). Women can many vegetables and fruits to last during the winter. A favorite recipe is Chow, which is made of mixed vegetables pickled with seasonings and pickling syrup. It is a traditional side dish or relish served throughout the area. Another favorite is Watermelon Rind Pickles, which is made of watermelon rind, seasonings, vinegar, and sugar. This recipe indicates how the Dutch use just about every available food, even leftover rinds.

Lunch and dinner are larger meals, and contain meat, side dishes, bread or rolls, and dinner almost always contains a dessert. Some of the most traditional dishes for lunch and dinner are Chicken Pot Pie, which is made with a variety of vegetables, roasted chicken, and a baking powder top crust, Paprika Chicken, which is made with chicken, spices, and sour cream. Many different types of beef… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Pennsylvania Dutch" Term Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Pennsylvania Dutch.  (2005, February 1).  Retrieved May 27, 2020, from

MLA Format

"Pennsylvania Dutch."  1 February 2005.  Web.  27 May 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Pennsylvania Dutch."  February 1, 2005.  Accessed May 27, 2020.