‘Pittsburgh On Your Plate’: The Manor lady’s cookbook is predicated on native culinary influences

Joanne Niehl’s first cookbook, which was published for a family reunion, was based almost exclusively on recipes from her family. She also remembered the memories behind meals.

“We called it ‘Down the House’ because when we were growing up we used to go to the family house in Braddock on Sundays and everyone said, ‘We’re going down the house,'” he told Niehl, who grew up in Wilkins Township and Manor lives.

The recent loss of her parents and her brother also made Niehl think about fond memories.

“When you lose a sibling, all kinds of things come back to you,” she said. “Especially things I would remember walking down the house on Camp Avenue.”

Niehl began collecting more recipes and combining them with essays on different facets of Pittsburgh life to create “Pittsburgh On Your Plate”, 175 dishes that record the various ethnic influences on the cuisine of the region.

“I started by writing about memories of exploring this great house in Braddock and the smells of Italian cuisine that filled it and just kept writing,” said Niehl. “I’ve expanded into Pittsburgh houses, Pittsburgh sports and all of those things.”

Niehl again resorted to unique and locally connected dishes that were created by friends and family for the new cookbook.

“I had a friend with this great pumpkin fudge recipe that I wanted to include,” she said. “These are the recipes I like – the stuff you wouldn’t necessarily think of, but it works.”

Niehl remembered a church bliss in which she ate a Polish cabbage roll like she had never tried before.

“I asked my cousin about them and she said her mother-in-law put applesauce in with the meat for her cabbage rolls,” she said. “Those are the little things, things you won’t see on the Food Network, just someone’s grandmother who says, ‘Hey, that’s how we do it because it tastes better.’ ”

She also discovered that family recipes sometimes require a little editorial massaging.

“My grandmother’s recipe for Pasta e Fagioli called for a glass of water to measure the temperature on the stove,” said Niehl with a laugh. “The publisher told me I had to change this to some kind of actual measurement, but that’s the thing with some of the old Italian cuisine – there isn’t always a lot of measurement.”

Niehl worked with Page Publishing to create the book.

“It was a very good experience. They helped me do things I couldn’t have done on my own to make it more of a book and they helped me with some marketing, ”she said. “It’s been a wonderful trip.”

“Pittsburgh on Your Plate” is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and the Google Play Store as well as from Completely Booked in Monroeville.

Patrick Varine is a contributor to Tribune Review. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, pvarine@triblive.com, or on Twitter.

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