Monday, September 22, 2014

Perfectly Pennsylvania

So we made it through the Dungeness crab eating, Nike wearing, windsurfing and cycling mecca that was the state or Oregon last week.  This week we pack it up and fly all the way to the other side of the country to “The Cradle of Liberty”  , the “City of Brotherly Love”, the state which is nicknamed “The Keystone State” for not only its central location in the original 13 colonies but because it held a key position in the economic, social, and political development of the United States.  That’s right, this week we take the state project on the road to the place where Dutch means German, milk chocolate was born, and little leaguers flock to play their world series – Pennsylvania!  I’m excited to share the history, tradition and uniqueness of Pennsylvania this week (I have one word for you – Hershey’s.) and had quite the time narrowing it down on what I wanted to share with the Dynamic Duo.  So fair warning, I haven’t even been able to touch the tip of the iceberg with what makes Pennsylvania special, but we’re going to give it our best shot!

The most logical place to start with Pennsylvania is the historical significance it’s steeped in.  I’ll get back to its founding, but as I’ve already mentioned Pennsylvania was key in the birth of the United States.  Home to the Continental Congress from 1774 to 1789 the city of Philadelphia saw a nation declare itself independent, establish rules for governing that nation and was the capital from 1790-1800.  The Declaration of Independence was written by Thomas Jefferson in June of 1776 and was ratified on July 4, 1776 with 12 what would be states voting for independence and one abstaining vote.  In 1789, as the fledgling nation struggled to find its way, the Congress sought to establish a supreme law of the land by penning The United States Constitution.  Also significant in Philadelphia, The Liberty Bell.  The 2,080 pound bell that measures 12 feet in circumference around the lip and 3 feet from lip to crown was rung to celebrate the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence.  And that famous crack?  Well, there’s some debate how that happened.  Another icon for the newly formed nation was its flag, created by Pennsylvanian Betsy Ross.  Rumor has it that her demonstration of how to cut a five-point star with a single snip changed our beloved Stars and Stripes for the Founding Fathers original designs.

“Four Score and Seven Years” later, when Civil War divided the nation, Pennsylvania was the site of numerous battles.  The bloodiest and the eventual turning point in the War occurred just outside of Gettysburg.     Lasting from July 1-3, 1863, The Battle of Gettysburg accounted for approximately 50,000 deaths for Union and Confederate troops.  In November of that same year, Abraham Lincoln dedicated the Gettysburg National Cemetery by giving what would become one of the best known speeches in American history, the Gettysburg Address.  (And for the record, Lincoln succeeded the only President born in Pennsylvania, James Buchanan.  He may not be Pennsylvania’s greatest claim to fame as his failure to deal with secession was voted (twice!) to be the worst presidential mistake ever made.)

War as not what Pennsylvania founder William Penn intended for his state.  In fact, as a Quaker, Penn intended the land he founded to be one of peace and religious freedom.  This freedom of religion was key not just to the  Society of Friends but also to the group that would eventually be known as the Pennsylvania Dutch, which is largely comprised of sects of Amish and Mennonite people.  In this case, “Dutch” actually refers to the early German-speaking immigrants who settled primarily in Southeastern Pennsylvania.  A current visit to Lancaster County would most likely include seeing at least one sighting of an Amish buggy by those people known for simple living, plain dress, and reluctance to adopt many conveniences of modern technology.  And their food – trust me you haven’t heard the last of the Pennsylvania Dutch this week!

There are lots of well-known companies with Pennsylvania roots (Snyder’s pretzels, Utz, Just Born, Auntie Anne’s – I could seriously keep going) but I decided to share my three favorite (and probably most kid friendly) with the Dynamic Duo on our “Famous For” wall.  I have big plans for Hershey’s, Crayola and Heinz this week, all company’s native to and based in Pennsylvania.  You’ll have to stick around to learn how milk chocolate was created in the town of Hershey (where you can now visit an amusement park devoted to it), why founder Henry J. Heinz chose ’57 varieties’ as a slogan for his Pittsburg company and what colors are part of a box of the crayons made in Forks Township.  Oh, and just because I couldn’t resist, I couldn’t let the Pennsylvanian Richard James created and demonstrated one of the best loved toys of all times, the Slinky in Philadelphia in 1945.

Those same kids that play with Slinkys may take a trip to South Williamsport to play in the Little League World Series.  The World of Little League Museum (where I’ve been, thanks Mom ;-) ) is also there and has the Hall of Excellence to honor former Little League players.  If professional sports hold a greater appeal (or if the thought of dealing with some of those little league parents, geesh! is too much) Pennsylvania has a plethora of teams to choose from.  Baseball’s Pittsburg Pirates and Philadelphia Phillies (and their cool mascot!) call Pennsylvania home.   Football fans can cheer on the Pittsburg Steelers or the Philadelphia Eagles.  If you like hoops the Philadelphia Sixers are for you and I couldn’t even begin to relate the icons who have taken the ice for the Pittsburg Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers.  On a collegiate level the Nittany Lions from Penn State University and the Panthers from the University of Pittsburg are probably the most well-known.

With all that, could there be any more?  The answer is yes – too much for me for sure!  But I had to get in at least one more for my crew this week, especially given my severe loathing and distrust for this Pennsylvania icon after last year.  No recap of the state that gave us Bill Cosby, Will Smith, Taylor Swift, Kobe Bryant, and Bob Saget would be complete without a salute to one of its most famous residents; Punxsutawney Phil .  Every February 2 since 1887, Phil comes out of his Gobbler’s Knob home to predict an early spring or six more weeks of winter.  The groundhog tradition most likely has German roots where clear skies on Candlemas Day, February 2, were said to herald cold weather ahead. In Germany, the tradition morphed into a myth that if the sun came out on Candlemas, a hedgehog would cast its shadow, predicting snow all the way into May. When German immigrants settled in Pennsylvania, they transferred the tradition onto local fauna, replacing hedgehogs with groundhogs.  About one-third of Phil’s ‘predictions’ have turned out to be accurate and just last year he found himself in some hot water – even being threatened with the Death Penalty!  (This may be taking things a little bit too far, Ohio…)

So there you have it – a down and dirty trek through the nation’s leading producer of canned mushrooms, a once leader in the steel industry , and the state behind America’s oldest brewery.  I told you there was a ton this week!  And I know you were probably guessing that I was going to make a certain sandwich named after a certain city to kick off our culinary adventure, but the first PTA meeting of the year is tonight and Noah has religious ed early (Kristi’s side rant – who in their right mind schedule’s religious ed classes from 5:15-6:30 on a Monday night.  Really??) so I wanted something easy that I wouldn’t have to spend a whole lot of time on.  To help me out, I turned to one of the company’s I mentioned above, Heinz, and their recipe for 57 Sauce Great American Meatloaf.  More from Heinz later this week (we’re going to make copycat ketchup!) but it was a great go-to recipe for tonight.  With it I made Amish Hashbrowns.  Again, lots of Amish recipes this week, so we’ll save more details for then.  I had to head out, but I left Grandma’s Tandy Kake for dessert for the gang tonight.  The recipe is play on a Tastykake made by the Tasty Baking Company headquartered in Philadelphia.  I’ll have to let you know tomorrow what they thought.

Alright, it should be evident by now that this week is going to be huge!  I’ve got some really fun projects planned, all kinds of good food to eat and maybe a surprise or two up my sleeve.  Tomorrow I’m going to give that sandwich I alluded to earlier its due and there may be a crayon or two in the day.  So until then…

Pennsylvania Fun Fact of the Day:  The first all-motion-picture theater in the world was opened on Smithfield Street in Pittsburgh on June 19, 1905. The Warner brothers began their careers in western Pennsylvania.

Grandma's Tandy Kake - I may have been a little impatient when I made this last night and didn't let the peanut butter layer set long enough before adding the chocolate.  But I really wanted to get it done so Grant could try a piece as a THANK YOU for everything he put up with over the weekend

Three layers of spongy, peanut buttery, chocolatey goodness

A Crayola water as a treat this week


Mikayla working on her homework - don't EVEN get me started on this one.  Grr.....

Making Potato Hashbrowns

Dinner call!

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