A unique ac­cul­tur­a­tion of English food

Ger­manic culi­nary fa­vorites were eas­ily traded at Philadel­phia mar­kets among the Quaker English neighbors

The Hamburg Area Item - - LOCAL NEWS - Richard L.T. Orth A Look Back In His­tory

Ever since the Colo­nial pe­riod, PA Dutch farm­ers in Berks, Le­high and Lan­caster coun­ties have counted on im­ports from the English port of Philadel­phia, and in re­turn, we sold our food and grain prod­ucts etc. to trade with the rest of the world. But in­stinc­tively, our Rhineland an­ces­tors rel­ished their Ger­manic culi­nary diet mak­ing scrap­ple, cot­tage cheese, and ap­ple but­ter, which was eas­ily traded at the Philadel­phia mar­kets among the Quaker English neighbors of Wil­liam Penn.

In­evitably, ac­cul­tur­a­tion oc­curred be­tween these Colo­nial pi­o­neers. How­ever, I pre­fer not to use the pop­u­lar term “Philadel­phia Scrap­ple,” es­pe­cially be­cause home­made recipes in the East Penn Val­ley are my fa­vorites. Iron­i­cally, among some Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch fam­i­lies of gen­er­a­tions past were unique PA Dutch dishes not pop­u­lar­ized such as a zesty salad dish called Sal­ma­gundi.

This dish ap­pealed to those Deitscher grand­moth­ers who craved ad­di­tional gar­den de­lights such as “Swi­wala cooka” (onion pie), and would in­clude in this Sal­ma­gundi be­cause the spring onions gave it a fresh taste. Gen­er­ally, fam­i­lies pre­ferred hot ba­con dress­ing on their sal­ads and also bought sweet bologna to cut up with vine­gar in salad, or less pop­u­larly su­gar wa­ter with onions, radishes in ad­di­tion to let­tuce. In read­ing var­i­ous trade mag­a­zines and keep­ing up with PA Dutch an­tiques and rare Amer­i­can trea­sures sold over the auc­tion block, I came across an ar­ti­cle a few years back where Amer­i­cana ex­pert, David Rago spoke to the Amer­i­can Ap­praisal As­so­ci­a­tion at New York City where they had a pres­ti­gious Sal­ma­gundi Art Club.

Re­al­iz­ing that many Amer­i­cana trea­sures are sold at Sotheby’s and New York City’s Christie’s auc­tion houses, our early Amer­i­cana PA Dutch an­tiques have been known to bring top dol­lar among na­tional col­lec­tors and mu­se­ums. Liv­ing among the PA Dutch peo­ple, rarely does one here about a sweet and sour sal­ma­gundi salad, which per­haps achieved its zesty taste from the diced onions in this con­coc­tion. How­ever, when I read the head­line about this in­flu­en­tial body of dis­tin­guished peo­ple meet­ing at the Sal­ma­gundi Club in New York City, I be­came proud of our less pop­u­larly known dish con­sid­ered partly in the realm of a pe­cu­liar PA Dutch cook­ing habit.

The 1871 Sal­ma­gundi Club in New York (City) was founded by Johnathan Scott Hart­ley and fea­tures Amer­i­can art in their beau­ti­ful 1852 brown­stone town­house club. A his­toric New York land­mark listed on the United States Na­tional Reg­is­ter, David Rago spoke at their head­quar­ters and was a prom­i­nent TV An­tiques Road­show ex­pert and the head of the Rago Arts and Auc­tion Cen­ter in neigh­bor­ing New Jersey. Cu­ri­ous about the ori­gins, I e-mailed Alan Keyser, a food ex­pert on the PA Dutch peo­ple, to ask him about the tra­di­tional PA Dutch recipe for Sal­ma­gundi, but Alan sim­ply re­sponded by say­ing he knows of no Sal­ma­gundi recipe among our PA Dutch peo­ple. Puz­zled, I con­tacted some of my older kin, and un­for­tu­nately not ask­ing my “Nana” while she was alive, we pieced to­gether our fam­ily’s culi­nary back­ground.

Yes, she was a staunch PA Dutch­women and a good cook who lived for a time in Ephrata, Le­banon County. Still deeply puz­zled, it turns out to be the her­itage of old Quaker English Philadel­phia was where an an­ces­tor of mine be­came ac­quainted with the art of mak­ing a good Sal­ma­gundi salad, which be­came part of my fam­ily’s cook­ing legacy. Rel­a­tives who lived nearer to Philadel­phia, there­fore, English food dishes were merged with our PA Dutch home cook­ing to­gether with Philadel­phia cream cheese on home­made bread topped with lo­cally made ap­ple but­ter, a true re­gional fa­vorite.


The 1852 his­toric Land­mark Sal­ma­gundi Club House at 47 Fifth Av­enue in New York City where early culi­nary artists in the 1800s served a stew named Sal­ma­gundi for starv­ing res­i­dents. Wash­ing­ton Irv­ing also had named his po­lit­i­cal and satire pa­pers pub­lished in 1807, “sal­ma­gundi.”

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