I’ve been going to Dietrich’s Meats for decades (it’s been in business since the early 1970s). It’s the best place to buy unusual meats, local specialties, and lard. I have written before about the somewhat surly Pennsylvania Dutch staff (which brings out the affection in me) and the store’s lard (it’s the only place I would ever buy it). Once when I was in Maine, I met an older gentleman who said he made a pilgrimage once a year to Dietrich’s, and bought all his favorites in bulk. In the freezer section, you can find everything from frozen chicken feet to guinea hens.
There are the expected jars of pickled beets, chow-chow, and sauerkraut, right next to the pickled pig snouts, lamb tongues, and…guinea hearts! Basically, at Dietrich’s nothing goes unused. In the fresh meat case, they have all the baloneys and salamis and jerky, as well as smoked meats. In fact the whole place smells like smoked meats. It could be because of the smoked pig’s head they have on the pet treat table….
Anyway, last week I finally got to meet Mrs. Verna Dietrich herself. You’ve got to respect a woman who more than twice mentions with affection “the guys on the kill floor.” Yes, the store butchers its own meat, and you can see the butcher area behind the glass behind the counter. I was there to get chipped dried beef for my Sh*t on a Shingle recipe (it’s the only place I would ever buy it), so Dana and I decided to videotape the visit. Mrs. Dietrich is the only one in the store who was willing to be on camera. And now I know why.It turns out in her old age (she’s in her 80s) she’s become a bit of a celebrity. She showed me the recent photo of herself in Bon Appétit magazine. And then she asked me if I knew Corby Kummer. She knows him and he’s been to Dietrich’s, and she was in his book The Pleasures of Slow Food. Well, here’s the sad truth: I don’t KNOW Corby Kummer. I know OF him, and have seen him on stage at the Slow Food Nation Festival, where he translated for Carlo Petrini. Mrs. Dietrich ships her lard to all those guys, she told me. She ships lard to California and even to Alaska.
But once we started talking about food…well, it was hard to stop. She makes her creamed chipped dried beef using bacon drippings. When I mentioned that I use olive oil she made the same face I made when she asked me to try her liverwurst. I declined, and she said, “Don’t make that face in here.” Ahhh, the pleasures of home. Then, she showed me what she had been working on while she was sitting behind her desk in the office when I came in: cleaning field peas and beans! She says she boils them until they are tender, pours off the water, and then adds a bit of butter and cream. Yum.
Anyway, I bought my meats, two cookbooks including the William Woys Weaver one Mrs. Dietrich insisted I buy (I was going to anyway!), and some chicken feet gummy worms that taste pretty bad but are so strange looking they are fun to have around in case I need to freak someone out.
Oh, I just love Pennsylvania.