Katey grew up in Butler, PA, just outside of Pittsburgh. As we started dating and I met her family, they continually talked about the Strip District—especially its food markets and festivals. As part of a project Katey was working on at the time, we decided to visit and then take a picnic to Moraine State Park.
Penn Ave. and Smallman street are lined with historic buildings, poorly painted brick, crates of fruit and vegetables (some admittedly rotting), flower stands, pizza shops, men smoking cigars and wearing Steelers shirts, and Wholey’s Seafood market. There’s this strange mixed feel of pride and humility on every corner—embodied by someone who would yell at you if you said something negative about the Steelers, but kind enough to give you a free handful tomatoes if you bought some zucchini.
Everyone there seems to be working hard to deliver something important. Workers labor in alley ways unloading freight trucks from Pennsylvania farms with crates of corn and asparagus. The fisherman’s catch of fresh perch, flounder, or salmon is hauled in to be laid among beds of ice in Wholey’s market. The men behind the counter cut fillets and yell jokes. The butchers in the deli slice pastrami. The line at the Pennsylvania Macaroni Co. cheese counter is so long that it blends into the next room (giving you plenty of time to rehearse your order for the folks behind the counter, who stand glaring at the long line).
After making our rounds, we drove north to Moraine State Park. With only a few visible boats out on the lake and the calm waters to watch, we grilled asparagus and fresh perch with rosemary and lemon. To be honest, the perch smelled terribly fishy and turned out pretty dry, but the day spent together made it inconsequential.