Traditions Old and New

Traditions Old and New

This Thanksgiving I took a walk down memory lane. All the way back to the 1880s when my great- grandparents emigrated from Sweden and Tyrol, an area stretching between Austria and Italy, to Sheppton, Pennsylvania, a small town in the mountains in the eastern part of the state. There, my grandmother Louise Lundahl, daughter of Swedish emigrants who farmed a nearby valley, met and married Sylvester Bones, a coal miner whose Tyrolean parents opened a tavern and boarding house for miners. They settled in the area, raising six children, one of them my mom, who now are grandparents and aunts to many young, beautiful children.

As a child I remember driving from our home in Ohio to Sheppton to celebrate Thanksgiving. We youngsters ran wild, sending laundry down my grandma’s laundry chute, pelting each other with snowballs and sneaking candy from the lidded glass jar. And of course we ate. We devoured the usual turkey and stuffing, and fluffy pink stuff. But we also enjoyed foods that reflected our heritage. Tyrolean sausage, a dry-aged sausage that followed Italian immigrants to that area of Pennsylvania, was one of those foods. A roll of the hard sausage was always on the table, ready for slicing.

This year we drove to Philadelphia to enjoy a Thanksgiving feast with my extended family. Overall, things have not changed much in thirty years. The grandkids ran wild, sneaking soft drinks, and pelting each other with Nerf gun bullets. The food, though still traditional, reflected a growing consciousness toward healthy eating. Our Thanksgiving dinner featured turkey with all the fixings, a delicious pear-frisee salad, but no pink fluff. We also enjoyed food that reflected the changing cultural traditions of our family. My Indian cousin (in-law) made a spicy squash soup and zucchini fritters with a cilantro chutney. Flatbreads and stuffed peppers paid homage to another cousin’s Italian heritage. But on the bread board, next to the cheese and crackers was a loop of Tyrolean sausage. Luganiga, my aunt called it (though she pronounced “Janja”). A dying art form, Tyrolean sausage is made from beef, pork and spices (about 65:35) which is smoked and air dried. My aunt told me there is only one place to get it that she knows of—Tarone’s Brother’s market in Hazelton, Pennsylvania, which has been owned and operated by the same family since 1941.

On our way back to Wisconsin, we drove through Sheppton and Hazelton. I took my kids by my grandmother’s old yellow house, battered by the years. A decrepit shirt factory stands across the street, glass broken. We drove down the valley to see the land that my family once farmed and visited the cemetery where many of my relatives are buried. And of course we stopped at Tarone’s for Tyrolean sausage. Because at Christmas it will be on my table. It’s a family tradition.