Monday, August 04, 2008

Cookie Table Diaspora

I married Pittsburgh just outside of Charles Town, West Virginia. The gathering was relatively small, necessitating a follow up party in Pittsburgh to accommodate my wife's large extended family. We held the celebration in North Park and I had my first experience with the cookie table:

I'm going to a wedding in Seattle this weekend but it is a wedding between two Pittsburghers which means there are two traditions that are almost 100% likely to occur. 1.) the band or DJ will play the Beer Barrel Polka (if not several more polkas) and 2.) there will be a cookie table. Ah the cookie table, as a child I believed it and the money dance were the only things that had to occur at wedding receptions. Now that I'm all grown up, I'm pretty sure I won't being doing a money dance at my wedding and I'm damn sure I'll have a cookie table.

Image a table, or what is in fact usually several tables, filled with the best homemade cookies on earth: Lady fingers, apricot-filled sugar cookies, bourbon balls, nut cups, Hersey Kiss cookies and more. Traditionally, the cookie table consist of all the best cookies baked by the bride's aunts, cousins, grandmothers, and mother. For days and sometimes weeks prior to a wedding the family members make dozens of their best and fanciest cookies because everyone wants their cookie to be the crowd's favorite. Once on display these cookies can often upstage the beauty of the bridal party itself.

The above blog post goes on to explain the regional geography of the cookie table at weddings. Referenced is a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article that attempts to outline the reach of the tradition:

In an effort to figure out where cookie tables do appear, [Mahoning Valley Historical Society's Arms Family Museum of Local History manager of education and external relations Liz Nohra] e-mailed questionnaires to 4,000 museums all over the United States, then drew a map logging her findings. She discovered than the dominant areas were -- yes -- northeastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania.

That puts Youngstown right at the center of a major cultural region, the Slovak expatriate hearth and the pulse of the Rust Belt renaissance. Home is where the cookie table is, even if that place is Seattle. Pittsburgh and Youngstown are kindred spirits.


Janko said...

what's nice about the cookie table is that it incorporates cookie varieties from many countries.

kolachi from slovakia and central europe

pizelles and canoli from italy

baklava and bird's nests from greece

dobos tort from hungary

hammentashen and kifels from our jewish friends

americana hershey kiss cookies, clothespins, and lil cheesecakes.

etc, etc.

crissy said...

I just spent the day yesterday with family making plans for a cousin's wedding set for the year 2010. Of course, we discussed the cookie table plan in as much (if not more) detail as any other element of the entire event. If Ive ever been to a wedding without a cookie table, Ive sent that memory to a deep dark place in my mind never to be thought of again.