Preserving the traditional food of our heritage creates links between generations and preserves cultural identity. Still, Irish people can enjoy Italian wedding soup and Italians can savor triple-leavened Angel cookies, a hallmark of black family gatherings. The recipes, and more, can be found in the highly anticipated “Akron Family Recipes: History and Traditions, From Sauerkraut Meatballs to Sweet Potato Pie” by Judy Orr James.
In his introduction, James cites his catalyst for writing the book: “I realized how deeply our food history is embedded in the history of our community and sadly how many restaurant recipes and treasured families have been lost.
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In the book, great-grandchildren released secret family dishes and restaurant recipes were adapted for home cooking. A pierogi recipe has been adapted by a former chef from the Polish American Citizens Club, and an Irish war bride brings her soda bread recipe.
Although some of the recipes are from restaurants, they are scaled down for home kitchens; no “9 pints of tomato paste” or “2 pounds of cinnamon”. The contributor of a recipe for koulouria, a braided Greek sweet bread, says it “makes a lot of dough – enough for the village,” but bakes on a single cookie sheet. A recipe for another sweet bread, Hungarian kuglof, calls for 10-12 cups of flour, but could easily be cut in half.
While most cookbooks list recipes by type of dish — soup, bread, dessert — these recipes are listed by the ethnic and cultural group that brought them. James acknowledges that she could only include the larger groups and regrets having had to omit the Swedish and Lebanese recipes, for example. Groups are listed alphabetically: African American, German, Greek, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Jewish, Polish, Serbian, and Appalachian and Southern. There are no Asian or Hispanic recipes.
Each chapter begins with “Where They Lived”, the area of the first settlement (Germans lived in Goosetown, around Grant Street, south of Exchange; early Italian immigrants lived in Boston Township and Richfield, but later , North Hill became the center of Italian life). Churches, restaurants, and ethnic clubs like the Polish American Citizens Club kept people in touch with their food traditions.
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Beacon Journal columnist Polly Paffilas curated and indexed all of the recipes that appeared in the journal and donated them to the Akron-Summit County Public Library, where they now reside in an online database. Author James is retired from the library, where she was responsible for the special collections, local history and genealogy department. She also collected recipes from former restaurateurs and their families, such as “Cornbread Dressing with Smoked Turkey Leg and Gravy” from the former Porter’s Soul Food Restaurant on Copley Road.
Now let’s move on to the sauerkraut dumplings. Akron’s unique appetizer was served in local restaurants as early as the 1940s and was first mentioned in the Beacon Journal in 1952. A dozen or more restaurants claimed to have the best version, and in 1996, Beacon Journal food writer Jane Snow declared them. to be the official food of Akron. The book includes six recipes: four use ham; three use corned beef; we ask for Granny Smith apples. Sauerkraut dumplings may or may not have German heritage, but they belong to all of us.
“Akron Family Recipes” (252 pages, softcover) costs $23.99 from History Press.
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The free, one-day Cleveland Rocks writing conference will be held Aug. 13 at the South Euclid-Lyndhurst branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library, featuring keynote speaker Mindy McGinnis and presenters including Miranda Liasson (“Sea Glass Summer”), Angie Hockman (“Dream On”), Julie Ann Lindsey (“Closely Harbored Secrets”) and Chloe Flowers (“Pirates & Petticoats”) historical romance). Register for the 2022 Cleveland Rocks Writing Conference – Cuyahoga County Public Library (cuyahogalibrary.org).
bookstore by the fireside (29 N. Franklin St., Chagrin Falls): Approximately 18 local writers will sign their works during the Authors’ Festival, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday. See schedule and names on firesidebookshop.com.
Massillon Municipal Library (Pam S. Belloni Branch, 12000 Navarre Road SW, Brewster): Bob Lung, who runs the annual Fantasy Football Expo in Guangzhou, talks about the “Fantasy Football Consistency Guide,” 6-8 p.m. Thursday.
Loganberry Library: Lindsey Fitzharris joins Peculiar Book Club to talk about “The Facemaker,” plastic surgeon Harold Gillies, who provided facial reconstruction to wounded soldiers during World War I, during a YouTube event at 6 p.m. Thursday. Sign up at brandyschillace.com/peculiar.
Dover Public Library (525 N. Walnut St.): Alex Erickson talks about his Bookstore Café series (“Death by Hot Apple Cider” is the latest) and the Furever Pets series (“Dial ‘M’ for Maine Coon”), 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Thursday. Register at doverlibrary.org.
Cuyahoga County Public Library (Parma-Powers Branch, 6996 Powers Blvd.): Susan Wiggs (“The Apple Orchard”) talks “Sugar and Salt,” a San Francisco baker with a new neighbor, an attractive barbecue master, from 7 p.m. 8 p.m. Thursday.
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Supper Club Music Box (1148 Main Ave., Cleveland): David Spero, former entertainment executive, director of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and author (with K. Adrian Zonneville) of “A Life in the Wings: My Sixty Year Love Affair with Rock and Roll: A Memoir,” joins the Cleveland Stories Dinner Party series. Dinner is $20; conference is free. Go to musicboxcle.com.
Mac’s back (1820 Coventry Road, Cleveland Heights): Green author Angie Hockman (“Shipped”) signs “Dream On” from 6-8 p.m. Friday; it’s the story of a woman who wakes up after a car accident with the memories of a man she never met.
Bookstore of the learned owl (204 N. Main St., Hudson): Nina Echemendia signs “Mister Third Base,” 1-3 p.m. Saturday.
Visible voice books (2258 Professor Ave., Cleveland): Cleveland author Eugene Marten signs “Pure Life,” about a former football player who seeks treatment for brain damage he suffered, Saturday at 7 p.m.