As I mentioned in the previous article, Summer in our part of Pennsylvania is punctuated by a variety of local festivals or bazaars run by towns, churches, volunteer fire departments etc… Most continue to echo the now somewhat diluted ethnicity of the town where they’re held.
This is a good thing, because that ethnicity is expressed in food. Generally really good food. Not necessarily good for you, but mighty tasty.
Plymouth Pennsylvania is a slip of a town along the Susquehanna river downstream from Wilkes Barre. Like many places around the region, it’s a former coal mining town, struggling to survive in the post-anthracite world. There’s a strong Polish heritage here, and a decidedly blue-collar feel. People are extremely friendly for most part, but it wouldn’t pay to mouth off late at night in one of the many local bars.
The Kielbasa ( or sometimes Kielbasi) Festival, Plymouth’s signature event occurs each year in early August. For the uninitiated, kielbasa is a pork-based polish sausage. Though back in Poland, kielbasa refers to a number of sausage types, here the term refers generally to what Poles think of as their “farmhouse sausage”.
In many parts of Pennsylvania, kielbasa is a passion. People around here have strong opinions on whose recipe is best. Interest peaks around Easter. Small grocers (where a lot of good kielbasa is made) compete with smaller sausage makers that seem to pop up right before the holidays.
The Kielbasa Festival is an orgy of comfort food that health-conscious people avoid during the rest of the year. Halupki (stuffed cabbage)and potato pancakes beckon from the booths and trucks. Then there are the pierogis (a sort Polish ravioli stuffed with potatoes and cheese).Of course there’s kielbasa: as hot sandwiches to eat now, and as smoked rings to eat at home later.
Nowadays there’s the outlier fare such as chocolate-covered bacon, and obscenely decadent deep-fried stuff (we’re way past Twinkies). The odors on the street are wonderful, even if they tend to be mixed occasionally with the faint smell of cigarettes.
Towns like Plymouth have their issues. But the folks who keep these little town alive are solid, decent people who work extremely hard, whether for their small businesses, or for their churches and service organizations.
At any rate, I had the obligatory kielbasa and kraut sandwich, and an order of the jalapeno and cheese pierogis. Each was satisfying in a way that only our most familiar foods can be.
It’s a fun season. Next is the Tomato Festival up the river in Pittston,
And yes, it’s Italian.
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