A Culinary Adventure, From Gardens and Markets to Restaurants and Home Kitchens
Nov 28, 2012
11:25 AM
Local Flavor

Traditions Old and New

Traditions Old and New

This Thanksgiving I took a walk down memory lane. All the way back to the 1880s when my great- grandparents emigrated from Sweden and Tyrol, an area stretching between Austria and Italy, to Sheppton, Pennsylvania, a small town in the mountains in the eastern part of the state. There, my grandmother Louise Lundahl, daughter of Swedish emigrants who farmed a nearby valley, met and married Sylvester Bones, a coal miner whose Tyrolean parents opened a tavern and boarding house for miners. They settled in the area, raising six children, one of them my mom, who now are grandparents and aunts to many young, beautiful children.

As a child I remember driving from our home in Ohio to Sheppton to celebrate Thanksgiving. We youngsters ran wild, sending laundry down my grandma’s laundry chute, pelting each other with snowballs and sneaking candy from the lidded glass jar. And of course we ate. We devoured the usual turkey and stuffing, and fluffy pink stuff. But we also enjoyed foods that reflected our heritage. Tyrolean sausage, a dry-aged sausage that followed Italian immigrants to that area of Pennsylvania, was one of those foods. A roll of the hard sausage was always on the table, ready for slicing.

This year we drove to Philadelphia to enjoy a Thanksgiving feast with my extended family. Overall, things have not changed much in thirty years. The grandkids ran wild, sneaking soft drinks, and pelting each other with Nerf gun bullets. The food, though still traditional, reflected a growing consciousness toward healthy eating. Our Thanksgiving dinner featured turkey with all the fixings, a delicious pear-frisee salad, but no pink fluff. We also enjoyed food that reflected the changing cultural traditions of our family. My Indian cousin (in-law) made a spicy squash soup and zucchini fritters with a cilantro chutney. Flatbreads and stuffed peppers paid homage to another cousin’s Italian heritage. But on the bread board, next to the cheese and crackers was a loop of Tyrolean sausage. Luganiga, my aunt called it (though she pronounced “Janja”). A dying art form, Tyrolean sausage is made from beef, pork and spices (about 65:35) which is smoked and air dried. My aunt told me there is only one place to get it that she knows of—Tarone’s Brother’s market in Hazelton, Pennsylvania, which has been owned and operated by the same family since 1941.

On our way back to Wisconsin, we drove through Sheppton and Hazelton. I took my kids by my grandmother’s old yellow house, battered by the years. A decrepit shirt factory stands across the street, glass broken. We drove down the valley to see the land that my family once farmed and visited the cemetery where many of my relatives are buried. And of course we stopped at Tarone’s for Tyrolean sausage. Because at Christmas it will be on my table. It’s a family tradition.

About This Blog

Writing has always provided an anchor for my passions, which focus deeply on food, dance, environmental conservation and culture. I grew up “helping” my dad cultivate a prolific garden that produced too many radishes and watching my mom make almost all of our food from scratch, including horehound candy. Meanwhile I took my first African dance class in high school, which ignited my continuing quest to travel to West Africa, via Europe and South America, to study dance.

Through my travels, I learned that we are all connected by food, and our basic need to eat. Since moving to Madison in 1998 to pursue degrees in conservation biology and dance, I have developed an appreciation for the richness of our local food community, and a great desire to share it with others. What started as a personal food blog, A World of Flavors, has since grown into a business teaching cooking classes and leading local and international food tours.

I look forward to sharing culinary adventures with you through my Madison Magazine blog Local Flavor and monthly Dining In recipe column.

  – Otehlia Cassidy
Follow Otehlia on Twitter @madisoneats

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