Tuesday, June 19, 2007

the cookie table: a youngstown tradition

I remember the moment.

It was 1998 and I had to go to a wedding in Dayton.

The ceremony was beautiful.

The bride was stunning.

The filet mignon was succulent.

The band with their horn section rocked the house.

and as the evening progressed, I went searching for the cookie table.

- - -

Only there was no cookie table.

worst wedding ever.

- - -

People from this region may remember the first wedding reception they attended without a cookie table. The initial shock of not having a cookie table is difficult for the soul. But it also shows us how there are some traditions out there that are weaved into the core of our beings, which you can't find everywhere throughout the country.

The cookie table is one of those traditions that makes this region special.

- - -

Simply put, the cookie table is Youngstown.

It's festive and it's dynamic and it's diverse.

Your friends, your family, your caterers - all come together in the days before the wedding to make dozens and dozens upon dozens of cookies and minature cakes.

Even though the cookie table has its history in many countries throughout the world, immigrants from the region popularized it, and the variety of today's cookie tables reflects what happens when people thoughout the world begin to co-habitate in the same city.

At a typical Youngstown cookie table, regardless of the ethnicity of the couple, you'll find kolachi from Poland, pizelles from Italy, torte from Germany, kataifi from Greece, bobalki from Slovakia, buckeyes from Ohio, clothespins, canoli, kisses, and those little tiny cheesecakes with the cherries on top.

You bring cookies, you eat cookies, and you take home some cookies in your to-go boxes. That's the tradition.

And interesting enough, a good cookie table usually means your guests will be content.

The bride might be homely, the best man may have given a horrible speech, and the cavatelli might not be cooked enough, but if you ever hear . . .

"Frank, did you see the size of that cookie table? Good heavens!!"

. . . chances are your guests will go home happy.


Mighty Mahoning said...

Hey, great post. You're totally right. I recently got married back home and all of my friends from out of town were in utter awe of the cookie table.

Christopher Barzak said...

I find the cookie table interesting, because they were out in Kinsman too, and the surrounding communities, but to tell the truth I found them more often than not at Catholic wedding receptions as a kid, and as I grew older and older noticed they'd begun to spread to Protestant receptions as well. Now I think they're everywhere, but I have a hunch it started out in the Catholic families and as it grew popular with Protestant friends who'd attend the weddings and receptions, began being adopted by them too. This was at least how I noticed it working in the countryside around here. It might have been different in the city and suburbs, but I wonder if maybe it was the same movement at the beginning here too. I dunno the true origins of the cookie table, but it's definitely one of my favorite things at receptions around here!

SarahEP said...

I must say I'm from Baltimore and I've never heard of a "Cookie Table". AMAZING concept though. It sure would have made the weddings I've been to much more memorable!

Youngstown Pride said...

The Arms Museum did a big exhibit on cookie tables about two years ago (See: N.E. Ohio is "haven" for wedding cookie tables!)

After some discussions with family members in Connecticut, it appears they have cookie tables at weddings as well. They too live in a very Catholic, post-industrial area of Connecticut with a lot of similarity to Youngstown.

Lori said...

I was born and raised in Cleveland and have never heard of the cookie table tradition. Sounds yummy, though.

As for the Connecticut connection, many of the original settlers of northeastern Ohio came from Connecticut. Perhaps that explains it.

Mike Prelee said...

I had no idea cookie tables were a Youngstown tradition. I don't think I've ever been to a wedding without one. In fact, I've been to three graduation parties this year and all of them had cookie tables.


Mike brings up another interesting fact. Graduation parties have cookie tables as well. I grew up in Southwestern PA and they were present at both gp's as well as wedding. Interesting side story: I'm planning my best friends wedding @ Stambaugh Auditorium this weekend and his mother - who has lived in Pitt her whole life, never been to Youngstown - asks the Stambaugh management where the cookie table would be located. The question was asked before such things as "Where will they cut the cake? Where will then enter? Where are the bathrooms?". Good stuff.

Meg Mattie said...

Im from Austintown, but have raised my children in Winter Haven, florida. My son is getting married in September. When I mentioned doing a cookie table my future daughter-in-law and her family looked at me like I was shot out of a cannon. When I explained the tradition they understood how important this is to our family. I plan to create a cookie table that will blow their minds and be talked about for years to come!!!!

Janko said...

GO Meg!!!