Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Recipes of Youngstown Volume 3

Recipes LargeIt just could be that I am about the last person from Youngstown to find out about the latest addition to the Recipes of Youngstown series. I posted a picture last week of my “Youngstown library” which includes the first two volumes in the series, only to get a raft of comments about the latest addition to the collection. Volume Three is now available and may be picked up at the Arms Family Museum (if you can get to it with the Wick Avenue construction) or the Tyler History Center during regular hours (Tuesday-Sunday from Noon to 4:00 p.m.). You may also purchase copies for yourself and friends online at the Mahoning Valley Historical Society website. I just ordered mine.

As I’ve come to expect, the people behind Recipes of Youngstown Volume 3 came up with another great cause to support and some great ways to support it. On May 13 from 12-4 pm at the Tyler Mahoning Valley History Center, there will be a formal launch of the cookbook and a tasting event that will feature at least 30 recipes from Volume 3. Proceeds from the tasting and from cookbook sales both at the event and elsewhere will help establish a scholarship fund for veterans attending Youngstown State. Appropriately, the event is being billed “From Mess Hall to Mom’s Kitchen.”

Similar to other events this group has hosted, it will include the opportunity for tasting all these delicious recipes. You may purchase six tasting coupons for $5. There will also be a basket raffle and prizes, and a Best Cobbler Contest. Of course you will be able to purchase copies of Recipes of Youngstown Volume 3 (and probably the other volumes as well).

Here’s a list off of the Recipes of Youngstown Facebook page of the dishes lined up so far:

Johnny Marzetti
Shrimp Cocktail for a Crowd
Potato Pasties
Chex Mix
Homemade Italian Sausage
City Chicken w/ Mashed Potatoes
Baked Beans w/Kielbasa
Creamed Chip Beef on Toast
BBQ Smoked Pulled Pork Sliders w/Coleslaw
Ham & Bean Soup w/ Corn Bread
Sloppy Joes
Banana Bread
California Onion Potatoes W/Green Beans
Bolony Salad Sliders
Bean n Greens
Potato Pancakes
Chicken over Rice/Orzo
BBQ chicken
Summer Corn & Tomato Salad
Zucchini Pancakes
Daffodil Dip
Ham Rolls
Betty’s Potato Salad
Walnut Apple Cake
Tequila Lime Chicken
Mexican Rice
Mini Cupcakes
Potato Leek Soup w/French Baguette
Apple &/or Cherry Pie Wine
Zlevanka (Croatian Cheesecake)
Croatian Sliders (Mini Burgers)
Coconut Wine
Dago Red
Italian Beef Stew

This list makes my mouth water just to read it.

I have to admit that I am so amazed at what a group of Facebook friends who loved talking about and sharing Youngstown recipes has accomplished over the last four years, publishing three cookbooks, hosting a number of fun events, and funding three worthwhile projects in the Youngstown community. It seems to me that these folks bring together some of the best of what Youngstown is about:

  • Good food shared together.
  • Love for all things Youngstown.
  • A “go getter” spirit that sees a need and acts rather than waits for others.

If you are in or around Youngstown on May 13, why not stop by. And if not, you can always order a cookbook (or several for other Youngstown friends) and bring a taste of Youngstown to wherever you live!

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown: Recipes of Youngstown (2)

Recipes of Youngstown 2The long awaited package of joy appeared in our mailbox on Thursday. Some months ago, we had learned that a new Recipes of Youngstown was in the works. Having been thoroughly delighted by the first volume, we didn’t hesitate for a moment to send in our pre-order. But we did find ourselves wondering whether after 500 recipes covering Youngstown staples from pierogies to pizzelles and chip-chopped ham to halushki, what was left?

Not to worry, the contributors to this cookbook dug up from attics and cookbooks from grandparents a delightful and diverse plethora of new recipes. First the diversity. The last cookbook had a number of those Italian and Eastern European recipes as well as things like Idora fries that we all grew up with. This cookbook reflects a wider diversity of Turkish, Greek, Danish, German, Portuguese and Mexican recipes and more!

Then there is the delightful part. I have always loved good Youngstown wedding soup and there are a couple of recipes, including one by the guiding force behind this enterprise, Bobbi Ennett Allen, with detailed instructions. I think even I could make a decent wedding soup with these! Patty’s Gazpacho looks to die for! I can almost taste “Uncle Tony’s Slow-Roasted Chipotle Pork Roast or Short Ribs”.

Of course one of the reasons for a second cookbook is that there were many good recipes for making those dishes we love, from kolachis to clothespin cookies and lasagna to linguini. And one cool feature of this cookbook was that it preserved some of the Facebook comments that offered tips and variations on these recipes. This cookbook was truly a community effort.

The cookbook is organized similarly to the previous edition with the following sections: In the Beginning (appetizers), Hot and Hearty (soups and stews), Sidelines (salads, sides, and veggies), Raised Right! (breads, rolls, and pizza), Gather ‘Round the Table (meats, casseroles, pasta, sauces, breakfast, and miscellaneous), Lunchbox (sandwiches), Something Old, Something New (cookies, candies and snacks), Youngstown Can! and Does! (canning and preserves), Youngstown Spirits Thrive! (Hooch), and a Sweet Ending (pastries, sweet breads, desserts, fillings and frostings). Is your mouth watering yet?

One of the new additions to this cookbook were the illustrations of David Schwartz and the characters of Aunt Bessie and Uncle Guido. “Aunt Bessie was the one who showed up to care for the family when mom was under the weather….” Uncle Guido…”was the guy who let you have a sip of his beer; the guy who dumped your veggies into the trash along with his…”[from overleaf between pages 118-119]. Schwartz is a 1972 Rayen grad who went on to a great career in animation with Darkwing Duck, the Simpsons, Rugrats, The Flintstones among his credits.

Similar to the last cookbook, the overleafs of the section dividers have fun features from “You Know You’re from Youngstown If” to tributes from principle contributors to their own “Aunt Bessie” to “A Message from Grandma” with all sorts of grandmotherly cooking advice like, “to keep potatoes from budding in the bag, put an apple in with them!”

The proceeds from this cookbook will support another great Youngstown institution, the Mahoning Valley Historical Society and its “Recipes of Youngstown” kitchen in the Tyler History Center in downtown Youngstown. The great ethnic food traditions of Youngstown and the archive of recipes in this cookbook (and its predecessor) are a significant aspect of Youngstown history and culture. The partnership between the contributors (who came together first on Facebook) and the Historical Society are a wonderful opportunity to preserve this important piece of Youngstown history. As we’ve talked about so many times on this blog, no place does food like Youngstown and through these efforts, Youngstown will continue to be a place to get great food.

Have you bought yours yet? If you want to order one, you can get one at the Mahoning Valley Historical Society website.

And if you are in Youngstown today (May 2, 2015) make your way to downtown Youngstown for Recipes of Youngstown: A Taste…and a Memory at the Tyler History Center on Federal Street from Noon to 4 pm. There will be a tasting event with over 30 dishes from Recipes of Youngstown with raffles with some incredible prizes including a Kitchenaid mixer and an HDTV. All proceeds go to the Mahoning Valley Historical Society.

Wish I could be there–but I have the cookbook! Happy eating, all!

This and other Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown posts can be found by clicking “On Youngstown” on the menu bar on any page of the blog.

Growing Up In Working Class Youngstown — Food

As it happens, there are a number of Youngstowners living in Columbus. And when we run into each other, almost invariably the conversation turns to food. Usually it is something like this –” have you found a place with good Italian” or “do you know any place that makes pizza like we had in Youngstown” or else, “nobody around here understands that you have to have a cookie table at a wedding” (more about that later).

recipes of Youngstown

All this and more came rushing back with the arrival of Recipes of Youngstown, a cookbook that came together out a Facebook group of Youngstown natives who pooled their recipes into a cookbook to raise funds for a Youngstown landmark, Lanterman’s Mill.

All the Youngtown favorites were there. Our friend, Lynne, who put us onto the book, had contributed a recipe for chicken paprikash. I haven’t eaten this in ages but was reminded that this was common in Youngstown. Of course, there is a recipe for “Brier Hill Pizza” which had a thick sauce and was topped with bell pepper slices and romano as opposed mozzarella cheese. Along with this, you can find recipes for haluski, goulash, wedding soup (no one knows how to make wedding soup like Youngstowners), stuffed cabbages and peppers and more. Of course, there are recipes for pierogies–seemed like every Catholic church in the area sold these on Friday nights, except during Lent when it was fried fish. And there are recipes for rum balls, and kolachi and other holiday pastries, including pizzelles (although we decided that the recipe we use from “Aunt Mary” is better than them all!).


The cookbook reminded me of Isaly’s (and other deli counters as well) where you could order “chip-chopped” ham. Isaly’s was also known for the “skyscraper” ice cream cones–which was truly this elongated cone of ice cream scooped with a special scoop (see picture). We always thought that the ones served at the main Isaly dairy plant on Mahoning Avenue were the best. Of course there was also Handel’s ice cream, just down the street from where my wife grew up. People drove from all over town to this walk up ice cream stand that served the absolutely best home made ice cream. No wonder Handel’s now has franchises in Columbus (as well as Belleria Pizza)!

Probably the reason for all this good home cooking is that in working class Youngstown, you generally didn’t eat out often, and if you did, it was often at a bar or mom and pop restaurant that had a great chef. If the food wasn’t good, and plenty, the laborers wouldn’t patronize the place for long. Women were expected to have a good dinner on the table when their husbands arrived home from a day at the mill or shop. (That wasn’t always a happy thing–by today’s standard very sexist and a source of resentment for many women).


(c) Mahoning Valley Historical Society

Then there were wedding receptions! There were tons of all this good food. It seems that the blue collar motto was, “if you can see the table, there is not enough food on it.” Along with that, the booze flowed freely and you worked it all off with lots of dancing. And then there was the cookie table. Families of the bride and groom would go into flurries of baking for the week before the wedding, baking dozens of cookies of all shapes, colors, and sizes–more than you could possibly eat at the wedding and so you found ways to take a stash home. There are only two places that seem to know about the cookie table, apart from those of us who have moved elsewhere, and that is Youngstown and Pittsburgh and there is a running feud between the two towns about where it started. Of course, I side with Youngstown!

What’s the significance of all this good food? I think it was that for many working class folks, particularly those who were immigrants or children of immigrants, they knew how hard life could be. They often had huge gardens because things were so tight that they couldn’t buy the food. That probably helped explain the rich sauces, often canned from last summer’s tomato crop. The diet was pretty high cholesterol and carb laden with meats and pastas. Perhaps it was that for the first time, some of these people were making enough to buy roasts and other meats. And the work was physical and you burned a lot of calories. As in many cultures, food was a way to celebrate the good and wonderful moments of life, like holidays and weddings, or even to find a form of consolation and shared fellowship at the wake for a lost loved one.

Recipes of Youngstown not only reminded us of all these good foods–it reminded us of the shared communal experiences of those growing up years in family, church, and celebratory gatherings. Now to try some of those recipes….

Read all the posts in the “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown” series by clicking the “On Youngstown” link at the top of this page or the “On Youngstown” category on my home page!