The panel discussion titled, “Got Schnitz? Pennsylvania German Material Culture” was held Wednesday April 19, and, fortunately, had Schnitz served after the event.
The panel was introduced by associate professor of German at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Joshua Brown and featured both senior professor emeritus of English and humanities at Harrisburg Area Community College Yvonne Millspaw and assistant professor of anthropology at Millersville University David Kriebel.
All scholars from the panel contributed to the book, “Pennsylvania Germans: An Interpretive Encyclopedia” which was released this year. Brown also happens to be the coeditor with the 2017 Durnbaugh lecturer Simon J. Bronner. Both events were sponsored by the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies.
Held a day before the Durnbaugh lecture and seminar, the panel discussion was held with remarks from both Millspaw and Kriebel, who covered traditional Pennsylvania German aspects, also known as the PA Dutch foods and Powwowing respectively.
Millspaw opened the event with some background on her topic for the night, PA Dutch cuisine. She talked about the traditional dishes and brought up pork and sauerkraut, which the PA Dutch eat on New Year’s Day so they will have luck for the upcoming year.
Millspaw covered the historical reasons for the popular dishes, as well, and went in depth on the historical technology and reasons for each recipe.
Millspaw further explained that because of the economic situations of the PA Germans they often used whatever food they had left, which explains their use of crockpots, or one pot meals, and the popular meat product scrapple.
Millspaw told the audience that her favorite PA Dutch dish was easily chicken pot pie, but she likes chicken corn noodle soup, as well.
She talked about how the cultural differences were shown when she shared the dish with some acquaintances from China, and how they liked all the ingredients but had never tried them presented this way.
Kriebel followed with an explanation of his studies in PA Dutch focused on powwowing, which is described as a magical religious practice.
Different from Wicca, powwowing draws from the religious aspects of the PA German background, which is mostly Christian beliefs, to help heal and protect people.
Kriebel is the author of a book called “Powwowing among the Pennsylvania Dutch: A Traditional Medical Practice in the Modern World.”
Kriebel continues to research powwowing and how it has survived and continued among the plain people.
“I think what surprised me most was I was told it didn’t exist, but I still believed it did,” said Kriebel. “It’s unusual to find powwowers.”
Kriebel said that the number of people he met that practiced powwowing surprised him greatly.
He also went into detail on how many powwowers would hide their true identity for fear of upsetting the church, their family or other individuals.
Kriebel said in his research this summer he will be working primarily in Montgomery County to see if there are still people who practice powwowing in that part of the state. He wants to focus on the overall attitude of powwowing practices and try to determine cultural differences of varying counties.
Kriebel also says he plans to revisit the cultural healing part of powwowing. He mainly hopes to gain more statistics to elaborate and continue with his previous results and develop more theory on cognitive models and schemas.
Junior Rider Brandau attended the event for a class. “I’m surprised how specific they went on the food and the powwow tradition,” Brandau said. “It’s usually just glossed over.”
The panel was open for discussion after both Kriebel and Millspaw gave an overview of their topics. The audience then opted to discuss more freely and gathered for some schnitz and pretzels.
“It was a wonderful panel and everyone seemed interested and kind,” Kriebel said.
Various members of the community and College gathered to learn more about the culture of the PA Dutch, which for some was also learning about their own background and heritage.