Pennsylvania - The Keystone State
Tourism Slogan: Pursue your happiness
Suggested Slogan: Happiness is a good cheesesteak
Two Truths and a Lie
William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, opened a public grammar school in Philadelphia that has been continuously operating for the past five centuries. Betsy Ross, famed flag-maker, studied there.
Pennsylvania’s Cumberland Valley marks the halfway point on the Appalachian Trail. Thru-hikers are challenged to chug a half-gallon of Yuengling’s Traditional Lager at the Pine Grove Tavern to celebrate that accomplishment. Those who keep it all down, receive a commemorative badge.
In 1943, so many men were serving in World War II that the Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers had to merge into the “Steagles.” Combining the coaching staff was more cumbersome than combining the players, but despite in-fighting and limited practice time, they managed to complete a winning season.
The Recipe - Keystone Bars
A keystone is the final, wedge-shaped piece placed in an arch that locks the structure together. This nickname works for a number of reasons. Pennsylvania forms the geographic center of the original 13 colonies. Its largest city, Philadelphia, served as the nation’s first capital. During the Civil War, the Battle of Gettysburg in south-central Pennsylvania marked the turning point of the war in favor of Union victory. Steel manufacturing in Pittsburgh and surrounding cities helped turn the United States into a superpower in the twentieth century. And today Pennsylvania acts as a swing state with enormous weight in determining the winner of presidential elections.
These bars I made ignore the historical heritage of this state. Instead, they celebrate its gigantic reputation in the junk food industry. I started with a simple cookie base. I mixed in Quaker oats because I like their flavor and erroneously assumed that the Quaker Oats Man was based on William Penn. They look a lot alike but have no association. The Quaker Oats Company chose a generic-looking Quaker man for a mascot because they assumed it would give their product an air of high quality and integrity. (It did.)
My second layer reflects the state better. I made a milk chocolate ganache with Hershey bars. Milton S. Hershey was the first American chocolatier to work on an industrial scale. He founded the town of Hershey near his factory in southern Pennsylvania. The town is called “The Sweetest Place on Earth” and the streetlights are shaped like the company’s iconic kisses. I mixed eggs and vanilla into the ganache and baked it until it was just set.
When the bars finished baking, I garnished them with chunks of milk chocolate and crushed pretzels. Dozens of pretzel companies call Pennsylvania home. The state produces the majority of the nation’s hard pretzels. The state also leads the nation in potato chip production and Philadelphia is home to the Tastykake baking company. These combined superlatives earned the state another nickname, The Snack Food Capitol of the World.
Sadly the pretzels lost their crunch a bit while I waited for the chocolate to cool so I could slice and serve. I also feared the cookie layer was too thick in comparison to the luscious chocolate. My coworkers were kinder in their reviews. One said, “Holy Hannah, these are good!” So I decided to be less critical and just enjoy them as they were.
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Alas, I have not visited this state myself. I really ought to make an epic road trip to the East Coast and rectify that. In the meantime, I can recommend some chilling reads set in the state – “The Lovely Bones” by Alice Sebold and “Long Bright River” by Liz Moore. For something less serious, one could always turn to the delightfully crass show “Always Sunny in Philadelphia” or the delightfully wholesome show "Abbott Elementary."
Time for the whole truth
Thru-hikers on the Appalachian Trail have historically been challenged to consume a half-gallon of Hershey’s ice cream to earn a commemorative wooden spoon.
(By the way, you can click on any of the 2 truths and a lie statements to visit the source of the trivia)