Meadia blooms

The wildflower known as Primula meadia.

Raisin pie, once a staple at Pennsylvania Dutch funerals, has lost favor, if not flavor.

That’s according to William Woys Weaver, the well-known Pennsylvania German food historian.

Kurt Shellenberger, a retired Conestoga Valley social studies teacher who lives in Manheim Township, regularly checks Atlas Obscura, an online magazine, for unusual information. That's where he found Weaver’s article, “The Death of Pennsylvania’s Forgotten Funeral Pie.”

In the 19th century, Pennsylvania German funerals boasted a food paradise.

“Because the Pennsylvania Dutch spent so much money and time on their big funeral dinners,” Woys explains, “there were fake mourners who showed up just to get the free food.”

Funerary feasts featured beef, ham or chicken rather than the usual cabbage and dumplings, according to Woys. But raisin pie was the main treat.

Raisin pie became associated with death itself. Someone might declare of a severely ailing member of the community, “There will be raisin pie soon.”

“The treat was such a common sight at post-memorial meals,” Weaver says, “it also became known as funeral pie (or, in Pennsylvania German, leicht-boi).”

Raisins were a luxury in the 1800s. Because grape seeds had to be removed by hand, preparing raisins was a time-consuming process. Also, preserved raisins would not spoil while traveling to a funeral.

Weddings also featured raisin pies and other special foods, but wedding guests were usually limited to friends and relatives. Anyone could attend a funeral. Those who crashed a memorial service seeking food were known as “funeral runners.”

By the mid-1950s, funeral pie and other fancy foods began to fade away, replaced by newer dishes.

“Today, most descendants of Pennsylvania Germans have swapped out raisin pies and stewed chicken for more modern options, such as casserole or pizza,” Weaver says. He adds that some Amish families have adopted pizza as the “new special-occasion meal.”

Weaver still likes “funeral pie” and provides a recipe for raisin pie on the website.

“It’s great,” he concludes, “but I don’t want to have to look at a dead body while I’m eating one.”

Golf course flowers

The Scribbler graduated from Conestoga Valley High School 60 years ago. Our class celebrated that anniversary Saturday afternoon at Meadia Heights Golf Club, just south of Lancaster city. We had a blast, but this item is not about the reunion; it’s a spelling lesson.

Many people misspell Meadia Heights as Media Heights, leaving out the first “a” because “media” is a more common spelling. As a representative of the media, the Scribbler would like to set the record straight.

Roberta Strickler, a former LNP writer who formerly resided on Golf Road near the club, provides the answer to why “Meadia Heights” contains the additional vowel. Those who know the answer may yawn. Others may be surprised.

Meadia Heights was so named because of the abundance of Primula meadia (aka Dodecatheon meadia) on the property. Commonly known as eastern shooting star, the wildflowers “were still abundant on the golf course when I lived there,” Strickler says, “but, since then (2013), I have not found any.”

The Primula meadia that grew at Meadia Heights were white and “cascaded down the rocky hillside toward the river,” Strickler adds. “I have found and photographed them recently in the adjacent County Park, but the variety there is pink.”

The photo accompanying this item is of white Primula meadia. Longtime golfers may remember them. Especially on days when teeing off was particularly difficult, the flowers may have provided balm for the frustrated divot digger.

Jack Brubaker, retired from the LNP staff, writes “The Scribbler'' column every Sunday. He welcomes comments and contributions at scribblerlnp@gmail.com.

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