A Taste of Utica is loaded with amaziing recipes, and offers a snapshot of local appetites, a peek into the kitchens of homecooks and their culinary traditions. This book serves as a documentary of Utica’s amazing food heritage.
Food has an amazing way to tell a story, bring people together,and connect people to a specific place and time. Finding local vintage cookbooks has gone from a fun and interesting hobby to the driving force behind this site. Documenting and sharing local recipes and the people behind them brings me so much joy, especially when it provides someone with a brief walk down memory lane, or a nostalgic taste of home.
I’ve had my eye on A Taste of Utica by Joe Mezzanini for several years now. The paperback cookbook was first published in 2008, but it was several years later when it popped onto my radar, and by then was out of print, with used copies selling astronomically high.
The cookbook is a collection of recipes and memories from Utica NY. Recipes for some of Utica’s best known dishes can be found in the pages of this book. Utica greens, chicken french, half moon cookies, and mushroom stew are just a few of the recipes found in this cookbook that Upstate New Yorkers will instantly recognize.
From Old School Web Forums to Published Cookbook
I reached out to Joe to give me a little back story on this cookbook, and he was gracious enough to tell me about how an old school forum from the early days of the internet morphed into a cookbook containing one of the best collections of local recipes around.
On his personal website, Joe hosted a very basic message forum. It was supposed to be about topics related to Utica, NY, but within months the most 99% of member posts were food related. Member’s chatted about who could make the best pizza, meatballs, mushroom stew. It wasn’t long before people began requesting and sharing recipes for pusties, tomato pie, cheesecake, half-moon cookies, and the community forum morphed into a recipe forum. The forum continued to grow, and took on a life onto itself, and some great recipes were shared – mostly from local kids and grandkids of Italian and Polish immigrants. Eventually the forums grew to an unmanageable size, and because of the basic functionality a lot of content it was hard to find. As time went on, hackers began spamming the message forum more and more and my countermeasures were not as effective as I wished. Cleaning and fighting spammers and scammers became a full time job for Joe, and as social media became popular and people stopped participating in forums it was suggested the recipes be put together as a book, and A Taste of Utica was created.
The recipes are short, practical, straightforward, and often thrifty. There are no full page glossy photos . No “diet”, “lite” or ingredient intolerant options. Many of the recipes are written by home cooks, for home cooks, and assume a basic understanding of cooking skills, and how to adapt a recipe based on personal preferences and ingredient availability.
What A Taste of Utica offers is a snapshot of local appetites, a peek into the kitchens of homecooks and their culinary traditions. This book serves as a documentary of Utica’s amazing food heritage. If you already own Applehood and Motherpie, you will love A Taste of Utica! This is a great addition to your cookbook collection with a sharper focus on favorite Central New York Recipes.
I feel it is very important to note that all proceeds from the sale of this book go to the Compassion Coalition – a community based organization that acts as a collection and distribution point for food and related products. Currently profits from the sale of this book are funding 182 meals for Easter, and will continue to offer support after the holiday helping the less fortunate get the support they need.
Compassion Coalition serves about 300k individuals and distributes directly to food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, halfway houses, community associations, and inner city churches that are located primarily in Utica, Rome, and the Mohawk Valley, as well as throughout New York State.