spat

My introduction to this lovely dish came quite recently. In Johnstown (PA) one of the great summer events held annually is the Cambria City Ethnic Fest, a multi-day affair spread out over the space of several blocks in the Cambria City section of the city.

My husband and I had spent the summer of 2018 settling into our home here, still caught up in the turmoil and frenzy of a move from New Hampshire. Aware that the city had many events of interest, we were too worn out to attend them.

As summer 2019 rolled around, I was determined to explore what this city had to offer, especially as I became acutely aware of the similarities in foods and culture Johnstown and Southwestern Pennsylvania shared with my beloved Anthracite Coal Region and Northeast Pennsylvania.

I started searching “to-do” pages on the web and joined several local groups on Facebook. Slowly, I started filling up my calendar with events I knew would be of interest.

Blessed with a fairly kind streak of weather courtesy of Mother Nature, my husband and I mounted our trusty mobility scooters and struck off across the streets of the city nearly every weekend.

My first realization that I would truly fit in here came at the end of May as we sat outside a huge tent at The Johnstown/St. Mary’s Polka Fest. listening to live music and watching dancers twirl across the dance floor. The line for “church lady made” pierogi, kielbasa, and halupki was out the door at St. Mary’s Byzantine Catholic Church.


Later that summer, one of the largest fests featuring a plethora of ethnic foods rolled around. I had been looking forward to attending the Cambria City Ethnic Festival since before our move to Johnstown.

Let me say, the choices of food were wide ranging, the lines for it were long at times — and it was worth every second of the wait in anticipation of attending!

Many of the foods were very familiar, but at a stand featuring Hungarian food, a hand-lettered sign read “strapachka”. Now, this dish apparently had eluded me for my many decades and I asked my husband to find out what it was. As he returned and informed me it involved potato dumplings, cheese, and bacon, i wiped away a tiny drop of moisture at the corner of my mouth and promptly informed him that’s what I would be having for lunch.

He got into line and a few minutes later, he returned with – well, I honestly don’t remember what he returned with other than my bowl of strapachka, for the second I stuck the white plastic fork in and took a bite, the angels sang. Soft dumplings surrounded by a slightly tangy cheese, mixed with bites of bacon blinded me to my surroundings. I was in love.

I guarded my leftovers like they were in Fort Knox on the way home. Later that night, as I gobbled down the remainder of that lovely strapachka, I realized if someone at the festival could made it, so could I — I just needed to do a little research, so I set about doing just that.

Lo and behold – success! I am pleased I no longer need to get my strapachka fix once a year, but can whip up a batch on a whim in my own Coalcracker Kitchen! I even bought a spaetzle maker to speed the process along and make things easier on my arthritic hands.

Read the whole article and find the recipe on A Coalcracker in the Kitchen