During the 17th Century, what we know as Germany was a hodgepodge of different states disputing everything from religion to politics. With religious persecution and destruction brought about by The Thirty Years War, many Germans were fed up and chose to leave for the New World. But leaving their country behind didn’t mean leaving their traditions – especially when it came to their food!
The colony of Pennsylvania was appealing to a large variety of people, for it accepted diversity and offered freedom of religion. The first wave of German immigrants purchased about 15,000 acres from William Penn, a tract of land about 6 miles north of Philadelphia. There they founded “Germantown” and were free to prosper without the political disputes of the Old World. As the settlement prospered, many more Germans followed, and soon their population swelled to dominate south central Pennsylvania!
These new inhabitants came with respected farming techniques and prized cooking traditions. The recipes used by these new settlers greatly varied by what regions of Germany they came from. These people, erroneously referred to as the “Pennsylvania Dutch,” rather than the proper “Pennsylvania Deutsch,” became famously known for their hearty meals, heavy in starches and fats. As they mingled with the English, French, and other nationalities living in Pennsylvania, their traditions would intermingle. William Penn was especially fond of the smoked meats Germans favored.
The majority of these immigrants came here impoverished, so what they ate was determined by what their new land offered. They became well known for their sausages and soups, which were great ways of getting the most from the ingredients available. Even today, local delicacies like Scrapple and Pork Rolls have their roots in the colonial Deutsch culture. With the opportunities William Penn offered in his new colony, German immigrants helped establish the diverse state Pennsylvania has become.
Written by Ray Tarasiewicz, Intern
Fletcher, S. W. Pennsylvania Agriculture and Country Life 1640-1840. Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1971. Print.