Food is both livelihood and pleasure for the standholders at Lancaster's Central Market.
Perhaps because food is so much a part of these folks' lives, they simply never before thought of writing down recipes of their specialties to share with others.
It was a second-generation standholder who first had the inspiration. The president of the Standholders Association brought enthusiasm to match. With little prompting the standholders began putting on paper the ingredients and procedures for preparing the foods they know so well. In some cases, recipes have been written that were before learned only by watching mothers and grandmothers; other recipes were translated from German to English for the first time. Still others are so familiar and traditional to Lancaster County that standholders weren't sure they merited recording. We encouraged them to offer these recipes, recognizing that many of these foods seem as natural to locals as the meticulous flower beds and covered bridges that draw visitors to the area.
How to organize the gathering of these recipes so that the final collection represented the current flavor of Central Market? We asked standholders to submit three categories of recipes--a food that they sell at their stand or one made with ingredients sold at their stand; a traditional Lancaster County dish that they particularly enjoy; and a personal favorite. In so doing we hoped to capture the regional rootings of the Market, as well as its current more-multi-cultural flavor. That spread is here, as it is on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at Central Market.
This Cookbook represents the work of many; first, the standholders who wrote recipes amid tending their truck farms, baking breads and pastries, butchering, curing, and making salads. Many of the standholders also tested recipes, along with a group of People's Place Associates. That step brought questions from some of the best cooks--why test recipes when we know they work? It was not their quality or tastiness that we doubted; it was that we wondered if these people, who cook with as little effort as they breathe, would record all the steps needed for the uninitiated!
Viv Hunt and Sam Neff, both from a line of standholder families, gave this whole project a special life. Norene Lahr, from Lancaster City's Department of Public Works, made many links from the beginning of this book's coming into being. In fact, Central Market Cookbook has been a cooperative venture from when Viv first imagined it. Now that it's complete, we invite you to join us in Central Market's tradition of good eating.
--Phyllis Pellman Good and Louise Stoltzfus
Central Market, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Lancaster's Central Market may be an historic site, but it is a vitally active place of commerce and friendship every Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday. Then, with dependable regularity, trucks, vans, and station wagons crowd the streets and alleys surrounding the Romanesque building. Before daybreak, market standholders "set up"--unpacking and displaying the meat and produce, the breads and pies, the cheeses, spices, flowers, plants, baskets and handmade crafts that draw the market's neighbors, as well as food lovers from far and near. It is a tradition for standholders and market shoppers alike--"Once it's in your blood," they say, "you can't stay away." For what compares with sweet corn pulled just a few hours earlier, with sugar cookies and fudge made only yesterday, with meat cured in nearby smokehouses--and with seeing friends at least once a week?
The market, built in 1889, is old. Older still is the habit of going to market in Lancaster. When Lancaster began as a town in 1730 Andrew and Ann Hamilton deeded property for use as a market place. The 120-foot square lay at the northwest corner of King and Queen Streets adjoining the Centre Square. George II of England established the market tradition: "And we do further grant for us, our heirs and successors . . . to have, hold, and keep . . . two markets in each week." Already in 1744 a visitor in the town remarked, "They have a good market in this town, well filled with provisions of all kinds and prodigiously cheap." A few decades later (in 1776) a British officer paroled in Lancaster remarked, "Food is very plentiful. The markets abound with most excellent cyder and provisions."
The city's interest in the market has protected its integrity and the pristine quality of the food and goods sold there. It was so from the beginning. City Council controlled the affairs of the market. Rent was collected by the city; in 1752 a farmer paid seven shillings and six pence per year. In order to protect the interest of the market the Council ruled that no "chapmen" (itinerant peddlers) were permitted to sell door-to-door in the city or set up stands except at fairs. Effort was also made to establish high standards of quality for the foodstuffs sold at market: there were rules concerning the freshness of meat and that meat not be inflated with air to make it appear more substantial.
The first Lancaster farmers' market was an open-air affair, but by 1757 a market house had been constructed, most likely a rather primitive structure. In 1763 part of the market house was reserved for the storage of three fire engines.
in 1795 Lancaster City Hall was built on the grounds of the market. Adjoining the west end of that building a new market house was constructed in 1798. This was a dual purpose building consisting of brick pillars and arches surrounding an open market place on the first floor and headquarters for a Masonic lodge on the second floor. the Masons shared in the construction cost of the building. The new market officially opened on January 30, 1799. There were 24 stalls, 14 of which were occupied by butchers. The yearly rent was three pounds. This building is still standing, but the first floor has been enclosed and is now occupied by a number of shops.
The relatively small space in the 1798 building was not adequate for long, and an addition was built on the north side of it in 1815. Supplemental market space was also provided by the curb market stands on adjacent streets. (continued)