Monday, June 23, 2008

Pennsylvania Dutch Traditions and Festivals

Life is full of funny and wonderful surprises.  While reading Eating Well magazine and enjoying my morning coffee, I discovered an article about Whoopie Pies.  Imagine that!  A classic Amish and PA Dutch favorite treat of my childhood featured in a national healthy eating magazine.  Of course the good folks at Eating Well magazine adjusted the recipe to make it healthier... I'll have to try it and see if the new version is as tasty as the old. 


Photo from What's Cooking America

What's a Whoopie Pie, you ask?  It's a delicious treat made of two chocolate cake-like cookies and a fluffy white filling.  Where did the name come from? 

According to Amish legend, when children would find these treats in their lunch bags, they would shout "Whoopie!" (

I'd certainly shout "Whoopie" if Curmudgeon put one if my lunch bag!

I also read about an annual Whoopie Pie Festival at the Hershey Farm in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  I had no idea! I just might have to head back to visit in September and enter myself in the Whoopie Pie Eating Contest or the Whoopie Yell Off. 

  The Kutztown Festival

Speaking of festivals, the Kutztown Pennsylvania  German Festival is coming up soon (June 28 to July 6). This festival celebrates and recreates the folklife of the Pennsylvania Dutch (German farmers and settlers) of Berks County. The photo below is one of the prize winning quilts from 2007. Click on the quilt to see more of the 2007 winners.


Growing up nearby, attending this festival was an annual summer event. "Eat 'til you ouch" signs hang over many of the food stands. Trust me - that is quite easy to do!  The festival features many delicious, traditional PA Dutch foods, including chicken pot pie, schnitz un knepp (dried apples, ham and dumplings), sausages, potato filling, pepper cabbage, chow chow (pickled veggies), milich flitche (milk pie), shoofly pie and birch beer. I grew up eating many of these dishes and introduced Curmudgeon to them food03-tnwhen we visited the festival two summers ago. She turned to my mother frequently and asked her while pointing at me, "Does she know how to make this?  Can you give her the recipe?"

In addition to the food, the festival features handmade arts and crafts, incredibly beautiful quilts, hex signs, music and dancing, farming tools and implements, and barnyard babies for children to meet.

(Banner, quilt, pickled veggies and hex sign photos above are all from the Kutztown Pennsylvania  German Festival  website)

Wing Nut's mother is a craftswoman at the festival. She is a seamstress and makes the world's best baby bibs, beautiful aprons, placemats & table runners in a variety of fabrics for every holiday or season, Christmas tree skirts, handy kitchen towels and much more.  Her business name is Bib-A-Lot. If you stop by and say hi, tell her the Weed Whackin' Wenches sent you.



Sarah Laurence said...

How interesting. I always thought whoopie pies were native to Maine. I've seen some Amish there too, but whoopie pies are everywhere. My kids miss them. A healthy whoopie pie sounds like an oxymoron - where's the fun in that? I love those devilish blooms in the post below too.

Aunt Debbi/kurts mom said...

I love that quilt. The food sounds wonderful. We used to go to "A Night in Old Fredricksburg." when I was a kid. You brought back some great memories. As thanks, I tag you. Bwahahaha.

Annie in Austin said...

Hi WWWenches,

You do have interesting roots! The only thing I know about Amish or PA Dutch festivals are the souvenirs people bring back, either from PA or from midstate IL - Amish dolls without faces, or sayings to hang on the wall like "Kissing don't last... Cooking Do". Or how about "The hurrieder I go...the behinder I get".

Chicken pot pie sounds great - is the middle of a Whoopie Pie made of marshmallows?

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Weed Whackin' Wenches said...

Sarah - according to, they are a big hit in Maine too with or without the Amish roots. I agree - a healthy whoopie pie sounds like an oxymoron. I'll have to try the recipe and find out.

Aunt Debbie - glad I could send you down memory lane for a plesant trip. Now, about that tagging... Is that any way to repay us??

Annie - Some recipes call for marshmallow fluff or creme to be added to the filling. The recipe in my old church cookbook does not use marshmallow. It calls for egg whites, lots and lots of sugar, milk, vanilla and a cup of Crisco. Yes, maybe I really should try the healthy version...

Anonymous said...

Eeeewww, Wing Nut, healthy whoopie pies! Yucko. Might as well make healthy moon pies or GooGoo Clusters or doughnuts or French fries or fried chicken. Some things were meant to be healthy for the spirit, not the body!!! We live 10 minutes from Kutztown but didn't realize that the Kutztown Folk Festival was secretly a local crafts celebration rather than a sleazy carnival until our first visit two years ago, when we were completely enthralled. We've become addicts, and are looking forward to this year's festival, beginning this weekend. And yes, we have every intention of looking up your mom and telling her you sent us (and maybe even buying a bib while we're at it!). For those who haven't attended the festival, we can only say, we love it, you'll love it, please go.

VP said...

Great post - I love hearing about regional foods and festivals.

I also giggled a lot - whoopie has a very different connotation here in the UK. Air-filled cushions that let out a certain sound when you sit on them!

Shady Gardener said...

My great grandmother was Pennsylvania Dutch, but they moved away. I don't know Any of the details. My grandmother never used any special recipes... I feel as though I've missed out on things, sometimes. Ver nice post!

Val at The Illustrated Garden said...

Hmmm. The whoopie pie looks as if it could possibly be a cousin of our Mardi Gras food, the moon pie. (Only... the whoopie pie actually looks edible and delicious, while moon pies resemble chocolate-dipped cardboard with marshmallow filling.)

Anonymous said...

I am originally from Pennsylvania, right in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Culture. I have so longed for some good old country dutch cooking and have tried ordering products online. I have been so disappointed to find that alot of these companies try and associate Amish and Pennslyvania Dutch as the same thing. I am Pennsylvania Dutch and take offense that the Amish get all the credit for a very large group of people. The amish are part of the Pennsylvania Dutch community, but a very small part. I have searched and ordered online for so many dutch products and none of them meausre up to any dutch cooking i encountered. I finally came accross this very simple website, and was able to find some old fashioned items that seem almost impossible to get from so called dutch food stores. I tested them out and ordered some rhubarb jam and pumpking butter. WOW!!! is the best way i can describe this company. I finally found a site that can truely bring traditional Pennsylvania Dutch Recipes to my home. This company has been in business since 2004 but only recently started selling online in the spring. They make all thier products in small batches and it tastes so amazingly homemade. If you are looking to bring flavors of the season or everyday traditional dutch foods to your home i suggest that you be careful of these big companies that claim to make traditional foods. I would compare to other companies before ordering any other products. This company mostly specializes in jellies, jams, preserves and sauces, but have many bulk food dutch treats and kitchen gadgets. Definately read thier "about us" page and you will get a sense that these people are for real.

Kathryn/ said...

That is truly one of the prettiest quilts I've ever seen. Imagine the love and pride that went into that. Oh, gosh, for that kind of leisure time... :)