Sharing Ethnic Flavors

We all love to eat, and food is central to family and community life.  Food is a centerpiece of most family gatherings and holiday celebrations, and it’s one of the prime attractions at the Mahoning Valley’s many ethnic festivals.  We go to the Italian Fest for a sausage sandwich and to the Greek festival for a bite of spanokopita.  In this way, we both celebrate and share our cultural identities through food.

Every group has its own food traditions, but at the same time, we share many patterns.  Slovaks, Poles, and Hungarians all make some form of pierogie, and you’ll find other variations of dough with filling in Italian (ravioli), Jewish (kreplach), and Chinese (dumplings) cultures.  Nearly every cultural group organizes key community, family, and religious events around food.  Even when fasting times come, the foods we eat to break the fast have special meaning, often tied to our cultural backgrounds.

In the Mahoning Valley, we have traditionally celebrated food in two ways.  A number of area churches hold regular food sales, featuring foods associated with specific cultural groups – think of St. Anthony’s Brier Hill pizza sales, or the stuffed cabbage sold at Holy Trinity Ukrainian Church, or the pierogi at St. Joseph the Provider.

Churches and community groups have also sold cookbooks featuring cherished family recipes, many for traditional ethnic foods, as a way of raising money to support their organizations. We’ve gathered a sampling of those cookbooks here.

Click here to learn how to make an Italian Sweet Ricotta Easter Pie.

Some cookbooks emphasize one type of ethnic food.  As the title suggests, La Cucina dell’Amore, published by Ralph Zernobia on behalf of the Oblate Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Villa Maria Teresa, in Hubbard, features Italian food, with recipes from a number of individuals who were prominent in the community around 1990, when it was published.

Read the Introduction or go directly to the Recipes.

The Anniversary Slovak-American Cookbook represents a national effort by the First Catholic Slovak Ladies Association to preserve Slovak foodways in the US.  The cookbook was published in 1952, and it features recipes from Slovak women from several cities.

Read the Introduction or check out the Recipes.

In 2000, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic church published Due Milla, featuring recipes from church members.  Along with recipes for a number of favorite Italian dishes, the cookbook includes a short essay on the ethnic diversity of the Mahoning Valley, and it includes some recipes for food from other ethnic groups.
The Alumni and Friends of Ursuline High School similarly recognized the cultural diversity of the community in their cookbook, In Our Hearts, In Our Memories, Now in Our Kitchens. It includes Puerto Rican, Lebanese, Italian, and Irish recipes, among others.
Flavors of the Seventh Ward also highlights the ethnic diversity of the community, with recipes from Jewish, Lebanese, Polish, and other traditions.

The Introduction to this cookbook includes information about blockwatches.

We see a similar pattern in St. Brendan’s Happy Cookbook. Like many of these community collections, the recipes here come from a variety of cultural traditions, and the cook who provided each recipe is identified by name.
The same is true for Recipes to Remember, published by the Women’s Missionary Society of Calla Community Church.  Their collection is dedicated to the memory of mothers and grandmothers, “who fed our bodies and souls so well,” and to the “daughters and granddaughters who have preserved and shared their traditions and good food.”

3 Responses to “Sharing Ethnic Flavors”

  1. Ben Lariccia says:

    N.B. These very interesting recipes and introductions are large files. It may take a minute or two to complete the download.

  2. I really enjoy seeing how the various ethnics have influenced recipes of main dishes. Even regional variations are interesting because they are usually based on the resources and ingredients the local people utilize and that is where ingredients are changed in the recipes.

  3. Jill Williams says:

    My mother had a copy of the Anniversary Slovak-American cookbook. Many of our family recipes came from that cookbook (sometimes she changed them to reflect how her mother made various dishes). You can still buy the cookbook at the First Catholic Slovak Ladies’ Association’s website at:

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