Monday, March 19, 2012

Local Stuff

Funny how when you grow up in an area you don't realize all the unique culture until you travel or meet people from another area. Last week, an ice cream stand opened, the Corral. I rhapsodized about chili dogs, french fries and coffee stirs- um, I could go for one now. My brother-in-law remembered them from an old drug store in Sharpsville, with those thoughts he dug up some research. Coffee stirs are original to this area.
I sure didn't know that when as Candy Striper with the dull red stripes on white apron over a white(you guessed it, Girl Scout) blouse, I had to learn how to make all those coffee shop recipes. I dreaded when someone ordered them. The coffee shop really was not my favorite assignment. I dreamed when I signed up for this volunteer program of reading to sick kids on pediatric floor. In the coffee shop, we had to wear hair nets, and make all those specialties.
So before Starbucks fancy coffee drinks, the Shenango Valley had coffee stirs. Sugar mixed with left over coffee made into a syrup, soda and ice cream, but it was not a soda. Soda not being a soft drink around here, but a drink made with soda water. Pop is what we called the soft drink, like Coke or Mountain Dew. I still do call it that. I won't give it up.
The old restaurant, The Cookery, had a sign that they had the Sharpsville pharmacy recipe. A claim to fame as you entered the door, green printing on creamy background. The Cookery first built by IHOP and they kept the theme of international flags. Now it is a Dairy Queen or as the kids first called it, "The Chill Grill." When it first opened, the family was not allowed to go the same time as Mary Ellen. It has lost it's charm. Something too commercial in the food and service, now. Lost its old fashion appeal, but the walk up on State Street remains popular with only ice cream.
The DQ's in this area also had a product only made here, coffee ice cream. They used Folger's instant coffee mixed with vanilla soft serve. I loved them dipped in chocolate. But the corporate Dairy Queen butted in, forcing the franchises to only use the national menu. No unusual blizzards,either, originality dashed. I wonder if the executives are in the Sears Tower where all the smoke from the seized pot filters into the offices.
Another custom I grew up with that I found out later started in this industrial area is the cookie table at weddings. These are sources of great pride and enjoyment for the guests. Families bake for months, freezing cookies forever for the reception. Guests line up at the cookie table while waiting to eat the meal. An appetizer, Steel Valley style. I always had to sample almost every one. When you do that you may end up with a plate full overflowing of just one cookie, each. Nut horns, kiss cookies, lady fingers, petite sandwich cookies with flaky pastry, chocolate chip, bar cookies, thumbprint, the icing in the bride's colors form the array of delight. Now, we get to enjoy them at open houses, too.
High school graduation open houses originated here as well. Having planned one, it is crazy, trying to figure out how many people will show at the spread. You don't want too much food, but you sure don't want to run out. Katie's turned out pretty well. Next year, I get to do it again for Mary Ellen. Better start baking cookies, now, and rent a freezer hidden from us all. I guess there is Hermitage Bakery.
I think this is all part of growing up, realizing that home has some really great ideas. The first time I lived away, I was surprised that there were no open houses, no Texas sheet cake, or great bakeries. If springs remain like the one we're having this year, I may decide, I really don't want to move away. I guess there is no place like home.
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