Across the state in the northwestern corner of Pennsylvania lies Erie. This city has gained the title of the “Gem City” because of the sparkling waters of its coastline on Lake Erie. It is the fourth largest city in Pennsylvania after Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Allentown. It is situated 90 miles from Buffalo, New York – 100 miles from Cleveland, Ohio and 120 miles from Pittsburgh. Ontario Canada is located across Lake Erie.

City drainage flows north into Lake Erie which travels to the St. Lawrence River into the Atlantic Ocean -- a little unusual as most streams in north-western Pennsylvania flow south into the Allegheny and Ohio rivers.

Once, an Iroquoian speaking Erie Nation occupied the area. These tribes were defeated by the Iroquois Confederacy sometime in the 1800s. They were followed by the Seneca Iroquois – also, known as the “keepers of the western door.” European settlers started to arrive around 1753.

The Erie Triangle was land claimed after the Revolutionary War by the states of New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Connecticut. It became part of Pennsylvania after the other states relinquished and sold their claims in March 1792. The Iroquois and Seneca Nations released their claims previously between 1789 and 1791.

The city of Erie and surrounding areas are located in a snow belt, typically, very cold with extreme lake effects. It is listed as one of the snowiest places in the United States with an average 78.7 inches of snow annually. During the winter of 2013-2014 there was recorded 138.4 inches of snowfall.

Service industries, health care, tourism, as well as higher education replaced the heavy industries it was once known for. It was the heavy industries of shipbuilding, fishing and the railroads that attracted European immigration to the area. At one time there were three sets of railroad tracks of different gauges in Erie. The attempt to standardize the tracks led to the “Erie Gauge War.” This war was led by the city’s mayor, along with locals setting fire to bridges and ripping up tracks, along with riots. At the end, the tracks were standardized so rail travel and industrial transportation became much easier to and from the area.

Tourism and the arts are major attractions. The largest attraction is Lake Erie itself, along with Presque Isle Sate Park for outdoor activities year round. Erie is home to many performing arts – both professionally and amateur. The Erie Philharmonic was founded in 1913 and has continuously performed with the exception of years during World War II. Many museums are found throughout the city, especially in the downtown area. Concerts and other entertainment venues can be found, again with professional and local amateur presentations.

40 to 45 miles southeast of Erie is Titusville, PA – first settled by Johnathan Titus. Lumber was the principle industry with about 17 sawmills in the area. The village of Titusville was incorporated in 1849. In 1850 oil was discovered in the region. Previous to that date it was known oil exist, but there was no practical way to extract from underground. In 1859 William A. Smith finally was able to drill a well that was to become commercially successful.

Oil-related businesses sprang up and the railroad became major in order to transport the oil. The town grew from 250 to 10,000 residents – seemingly overnight. Fearful concerns due to the oil were fires. In June 1880 what became known as “Black Friday” the worst fire occurred. For three days 300,000 barrels of oil burned after a tanker was hit by lightning. As time went by the Titusville area was dominated by iron and steel. Oil is still important to the area’s economy.

Simple and hearty foods are needed to help get through harsh and snowy winters of the area. Breaded fried foods are very popular, along with beer. The favorite beer seems to be Yuengling brewed in Pottsville. Perch is found in Lake Erie and popular with locals and visitors alike. This favorite fish can be fried, baked and grilled.

Baked Crispy Perch

4 perch fillets (4 oz. each)

2 cups panko breadcrumbs

1 Tbsp. paprika

1 tsp. ground black pepper

½ tsp. salt

3 Tbsp. melted butter

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

Preheat oven to 500-degrees. In a shallow bowl mix together breadcrumbs, paprika, black pepper and salt. In another bowl mix together melted butter and lemon juice. Submerge each fillet in butter/lemon juice mixture; coat each fillet in breadcrumb mixture. After coating do not stack fillets one on top of each other. Place breaded fillets in baking dish. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until breading becomes golden and crispy. Allow to cool for several minutes before serving.

Parmesan Fried Zucchini Chips

Great hot or serve at room temperature

3 zucchini, sliced

½ cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs

½ cup Parmesan cheese

2 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. dried parsley

black pepper to taste

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup vegetable oil for frying

1 – 2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese

salt to taste

Combine breadcrumbs, ½ cup cheese, garlic powder, dried parsley and black pepper. Dip zucchini chips into beaten egg; coat with breadcrumbs by pressing chips into mixture – shake off excess. Place chips on plate allowing chips to rest – do not stack. Place and heat oil in large skillet. Fry the chips in batches for about 3 minutes until golden brown. Place on paper towels to absorb excess oil. Sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese and salt before serving.


Let me hear from you: Search YouTube for Look Who’s Cooking as well as for this column. Find Bette on Facebook by searching “Bette Banjack’s Downtown Kitchen.”

comments powered by Disqus