Coming to the United States:
The Importance of Food for Preserving
Italian and Slovak Ethnic Identity
By: Karen Fabiano


Without food, human life could not exist.  It is necessary for our survival.  However, as civilization developed, food became more than just a primitive source of life.  Today food acts as a means of identifying and preserving the culture and traditions of ethnic groups.  In fact, food has functioned as an important thread that wove ethnic groups together.  Slovaks and Italians provided two strong examples of how food helped to carry ethnic traditions from the Old World to the New World.  These immigrants brought their customs with them to America through rituals and ceremonies surrounding food.  Frequently these rituals and ceremonies were part of religious celebrations, especially Easter, Christmas, and feast days honoring a saint.  Other ceremonies took place within the home on a daily and weekly basis during meal times.  Through these celebrations, the immigrants preserved much of their cultural heritage and their family structures.  From the discussion of Italian and Slovak immigrants, the importance of food in maintaining the religion, family structure, and cultural identity of ethnic groups after they crossed the Atlantic becomes apparent.

For Italians, these factors, religion, family structure, and cultural identity, remained intact because of their strong ethnic traditions involving food.  “Pane e lavoro! Bread and work!  These were two of the principle goals of the Italian in America.”[1]  The Italians, in fact, transplanted these goals from Italy to America.  Food played an important role in the lives of Italians.  In both Italy and America, food became the central component of the religious festa, including Catholic Holy Days.  Food also provided a way for families to connect and thus preserved the strict family structure.  The symbolic meaning and the etiquette necessary for consumption of food, especially bread, remained intact for Italian Americans.

            Similarly, the Slovaks, an ethnic group in America, transplanted their strong ethnic identity from their homeland to America.  Slovaks, like Italians, considered food very important, especially for religious feast days.  While some Slovaks might argue, “We do not live to eat, but we eat to live.”[2]  A closer study of the variety of traditional foods that Slovaks ate would contradict this statement.  Slovaks ate a wide variety of traditional foods prepared with recipes that mothers passed down to their daughters.  The wide variety of fraternities and women’s aid societies, which were not present in the Italian communities, supported this fact.  Even though religious events and festivals closely linked most traditions, ethnic foods even held families together on a daily basis.  The combination of all of these elements preserved the ethnic identity of Slovaks in America.

Old World Histories

Historians have traced the preparation of traditional foods for Italians and Slovaks back to their homelands.  Both Italians and Slovaks considered particular foods to be essential as well as attaching importance to the person who prepared the food.  In addition, these groups attached religious significance to the preparation and consumption of certain foods.  For Italians, the baker held the critical position in the community since he was responsible for producing enough bread to feed the community.  For the Slovaks, however, women filled this critical role in the community since women worked in the home and on the job to prepare food for their families. 

In Italy, for example, most people did not bake their own bread.  Instead, each neighborhood had a bakery to produce what its residents needed.[3]  The families in charge of the bakery possessed a special bond.  Each family passed their secrets and traditions down generation after generation in an oral tradition that resembled the telling of folk tales.  One Italian baker described the secret recipe for his specialty bread: “…2 percent yeast, 2 percent salt, 60 percent water, to 100 percent flour.”[4]  Clearly, the baker’s percentages total more than one hundred percent.  Other factors, such as the amount of time to allow the bread to rise or when the mixture might need additional water were not included in this formulation.  These steps as well as the special math became part of the bakers’ folk tradition that they passed down through their families.  Each baker understood the formulations and could create their own special bread.

            Besides the baker’s recipes, the second most important element of the bakery became the bread oven.  The baker usually constructed his oven using a specific technique that perfected the taste of the bread.  In Italy, bakers used an oven constructed of either brick or stone, which they heated with wood.  In addition, the ovens had a built-in container for water that provided humidity to bake the bread and keep it moist.  Although the baker constituted the only source of bread for the village, often the baker only fired up the ovens every few days, producing only the amount of bread needed.[5]

            Working as a baker in Italy became a very important job because bread was present in the everyday life of the people, especially at meals.  In The Italian Baker, Carol Field explains, “[Bread] is the single inevitable presence at the table during all three meals of the day, for no Italian would contemplate a meal without bread.”[6]  Field notes that restaurants always served bread with the meal, charging a cover fee or coperto to cover the expense.[7]  

            As Italians considered bread highly important, Slovaks held meat and foods prepared with wheat as highly important.  Slovaks frequently used these foods in traditional rituals.  In Europe, Slovaks still raise animals such as chickens, geese, ducks, rabbits, pigs, and pigeons to provide food for meals.  Families, for example, slaughtered a pig every few years as part of a traditional ritual.  Once the pig was dead, those preparing the meal used virtually every part of the pig to produce the family’s favorite dishes.[8] 

Slovaks also held wheat in high regard.  The importance of wheat was the result of the fact that the rich soil where Slovaks lived could produce large crops of wheat.  The Slovaks then used this wheat to produce flour.  Europeans applauded the baked goods that Slovakian cooks created with their native flour, such as breads, dumplings, and noodles.[9]  These foods and ingredients started to form the main recipes that mothers passed down to their daughters from generation to generation.

            Since Slovaks considered food, particularly wheat, so important in their lives, women played a large and labor-intensive role in society.  Just as Italian bakers became the vital members of the Italian community for their preparation of bread, Slovak women had the responsibility of turning the wheat into flour as well as using this flour to create the family’s favorite foods.  The Slovakian women faced separation from their husbands for many hours a day while they ground wheat in the mills to make the flour.  In the home, the responsibilities of women included cooking, cleaning, washing, and caring for the children and animals.  Women also attempted to create a sense of family to maintain a strong household.  With each passing generation, these roles became stronger and stronger.  Eventually, Slovakian women arriving in America between 1875 and 1914 brought these same values with them.[10]  The most important of these roles for women became cooking traditional meals for their families.

            Although both ethnic groups passed traditions down generation after generation, frequently the traditions of Italians contained stronger religious ritual.  Often times, food held a religious significance that mothers taught their children.  For this reason, mothers did not permit children to waste a single crumb of food, especially bread.  Italians believed that certain varieties of bread actually transplanted the blessings of the Church to the family’s home.  For instance, Calabrians produced special rolls, which the Church stamped with the image of the Madonna and the priest blessed before the rolls could leave the countryside.  Also, during the Easter holidays, Italians baked pupazze, bread shaped in a doll-like figure.  The baker always placed a red egg under each arm of the bread figure because the color represented fertility and the egg symbolized renewal according to the Church. 

Several of these traditions held religious significance, which helped to unite families.  For instance, Field states, “Round pan di morte (bread of the dead) appeared in late October, and cookies called ossa di morte and fave di morte were eaten in honor of the dead on the Day of the Dead and All Souls Day.”  As part of these celebrations, Italian families came together to honor those who had died. These cookies also provided proof that the family had not forgotten about their deceased family members.[11]  By holding these celebrations, families maintained their traditions as well as remembering their roots and ancestors.

            Other Italian rituals also related to religious beliefs.  For example, one form of etiquette involved the manner in which the Italians cut their bread.  Italians never left a knife pierced into the bread crust because this action represented leaving a knife in the flesh of the Lord.  Italians believed that the person who committed such a blunder would never receive grace.  Another ritual involved the process of baking the bread.  Before the baker even placed the bread in the oven, he made the sign of the cross over the oven as well as over the bread dough before it baked.[12]  These rituals formed part of the culture of the people living in Italy.

Mutual Aid Societies

Because these cultures and traditions were so important in the Old World, immigrants had to find ways to bring them to the New World.  In particular, the Slovaks established strong mutual aid societies or fraternities that were not present in Italy.  For Slovaks, these societies formed in response to the forceful actions of the Magyar nationalists.  Once the Magyars were defeated, the Slovaks then used these societies for other purposes including companionship.  Since women could not become members of the Slovak men’s organizations, they were forced to create their own.  These organizations provided a well organized means of transporting Slovak culture and tradition to the New World. 

Originally, Slovaks formed fraternal benefit societies as a way to preserve Slovak identity.  During the seventeenth century, an era of Magyar national consciousness grew out of a series of religious struggles.  The Magyar national consciousness eventually attacked all non-Magyar nationalities.  As a result, the Slovaks began to counter the Magyar nationality by stressing their own national identity.  For example, the Slovaks adopted a language that represented an important piece of the Slovak identity and separated them from Czech culture.  Also Slovaks started to focus on the significance of their history, especially their belief that Slovaks lived in Hungary before the Magyars.[13]  As a result of the Magyars’ attempts to control and suppress them, the Slovaks formed these societies in the Old World. 

For the purpose of providing companionship for members and insurance purposes, Slovak immigrants re-established these fraternal societies in America.[14]  Slovak fraternal societies also functioned to assist immigrants in adjusting to America.  These organizations supported the immigrant in times of economic trouble, and the organization’s leaders even struggled to maintain the mores of the Old World in the strangely different culture that existed in the New World.[15]  Some of these mores included their religious traditions and family roles.  Although the Slovaks created the societies as a way for the people to unite, frequently, the fraternal societies became strongly divided.  Many societies formed along religious lines and thus caused divisions among Roman and Greek Catholics, Lutherans, and Calvinists.  Other fraternal societies formed along guild or trade lines.  In these societies, membership was only granted to members of a particular craft guild or people who exhibited a specific skilled trade.  Although the Slovaks attempted to unite, religious and trade divisions remained evident.  These divisions even existed in the name of the societies.  For instance, the Slovak Evangelical Augsburg Confession Church and Fraternal Benefit Union in the United States of North America reflected its Evangelical loyalty.[16]

            Another division in these fraternal societies occurred along gender lines.  Because these fraternal organizations did not accept women in the Old World or the New World, women began to form their own societies.  In the Old World women in these societies fought to end the oppression of the Magyars over the Slovaks.[17]  In the New World, these women provided support groups for one another.  Fraternal organizations, especially those for women, offered a means for immigrants to preserve their native culture and Slovakian ethnic identity, especially through their cooking.[18]  The Slovak Catholic Sokol, a local women’s fraternal organization, provided one example of Slovakian immigrants using food to preserve their culture.  This organization of “Fraternal Sisters” published a cookbook that contained the “specialized and cherished Slovak recipes” that mothers passed down to their daughters for decades.  The editors of the cookbook also acknowledged that the recipes contained in the cookbook consisted of traditional Slovakian recipes brought to America by even the earliest Slovakian immigrants.[19]              

Family Structure

Just as Slovaks established fraternal societies to preserve their culture, Italians formed mutual aid societies to maintain family structure.  These Italian societies assisted immigrants in settling near others who came from the same region in Italy.  Once they settled in America, the immigrants worked to keep their strict family structure.  This was made possible through meals, the consumption of “Italian” foods, and maintaining traditional roles, such as those of the baker.  In addition, Slovaks also held on to their family structure through the gathering of the family at daily and weekly meals.  However, the family structure for Italians remained stronger than it did for Slovaks.

Italian Americans set up mutual aid societies to help new immigrants arriving from Italy.  In order for Italians in America to help the newly arriving immigrants, Italians often settled close to people from their own province or village.[20]  As a result, many Italians brought their traditional family patterns and behaviors with them to America.  In Buffalo, for instance, many Italian immigrants maintained their close-knit family patterns despite the fact that most families came to America only a few members at a time causing temporary family break-ups.  However, these immigrants showed determination to “reconstitute” their family structure in America.[21]  Perhaps Italian immigrants clung so tightly to their traditional family patterns because many immigrants intended to return to Italy after a short stay in America.[22]  Between 1899 and 1924, 3.8 million Italians landed in America.  However, approximately half, 2.1 million, returned to Italy during this time.[23]

The Italians who remained in America held on to their strong sense of family structure.  This rigid structure became most evident in the home, particularly during the Sunday dinner.  At this meal,

            The father sat at the head of the table, his wife at his right hand, the children ranged about them, silent and expectant.  The father served food and conversation was kept to a minimum.  The kitchen…was the most important room of Italian Harlem.  At these weekly rituals, which defined the public hierarchy of the domus in the sacred space of the home, the people of the domus gathered to eat only traditional foods, prepared by women in ways that were unique to every family but also generations old…[24]


The Sunday meal functioned as a bonding experience that helped to keep families together following their arrival in America.  For many Italians, the Sunday meal held more importance than attending Church regularly.  The meal symbolized the unity of the family and home as well as the hierarchy within the home.[25]

Although food served as a means to unite Italian families, people outside of this community looked down on the food that Italians ate.  At the turn of the twentieth century, people outside of this community viewed many Italian foods negatively.  For instance, pizza, which has become popular today among all groups of people, was only eaten by Italian immigrants.  The public and especially social workers, who worked to assimilate newly arrived Italians, viewed the Italians’ consumption of ethnic food, in particular macaroni and red wine, as proof that Italians had not yet assimilated to American ways.[26]

            Even though these critics could have deterred Italians from eating these ethnic foods, they remained loyal to the food of their homeland.  Italians imported large quantities of food from Italy, particularly olive oil, spaghetti, artichokes, and salami.[27]  Italians used this food to provide hospitality to other members of the community.  One Italian woman recalls, “If I come to your place and I’m hungry, I can be sure that if you have a piece of bread you’ll share it with me.  You’re not going to let me go hungry, you’re not going to let me sit for a couple of hours and not give me anything.”  This woman felt that sharing in this manner promoted a sense of shared lives.[28]

            Although Italians imported many of their food products from Italy, some food, in particular bread, had to be produced in America.  Bakeries in the United States functioned in much the same way as bakeries functioned in Italy.  For example, Paolo Lucci and his wife owned a small, family-run bakery in Jessup, Pennsylvania.  The solid brick oven in the Lucci Bakery was constructed in a similar fashion to ovens in Italy.  One small difference, however, was that the Lucci family used anthracite coal instead of wood to heat the oven.  Also similar to the Italian bakeries, the Lucci Bakery produced bread for over 400 families and local grocery stores.  Paolo Lucci and his family allowed Italian Americans to continue the tradition of buying bread from the local baker that existed in Italy.[29]

Slovaks also preserved their family traditions from the Old World through the celebration of daily and weekly meals.  For instance, Slovaks believed that families should eat at least one meal together each day.  Usually families considered the meal on Sunday the most important for families to gather together.  Traditionally, the Slovak family ate their Sunday meal during the noon hour.  The mother often prepared the meals later in the day individually for each member of the family.  Because of this, the mother might prepare several different meals at various times during the evening.  The mother’s job was to appease the family.[30]


Slovaks and Italians used religion as one of their most successful ways in which they preserved their ethnic identity.  For Italians, the most important religious celebrations became the festas given in honor of a saint.  These festas, typically held in the summer months, united the community through the preparation and consumption of traditional Italian foods, which the women made special efforts to prepare.  The Slovaks also celebrated religious festivals.  Sometimes they were in the form of parish picnics, however, more frequently the celebration honored the holy days of Christmas and Easter.  Special preparations surrounded the meals for these holy days.  In addition, certain rituals also accompanied the consumption of the meal itself.  Both Italians and Slovaks held on to their rituals through their long journeys.

Some historians argued that Italians transplanted their religious practices to the United States when they came.  For example, Patrick Gallo argues that “[t]he cults of the saints and Madonnas, the festa, the rituals, and symbols survived the crossing.”[31]  These traditions, however, conflicted with the traditions that Irish Catholics had already established in America.  Whether a devout or not, most Italian immigrants expressed disgust with the style and control of the Irish Church.[32]  The Irish conducted the mass in a language that the Italians could not understand, the rituals did not correspond, and the Irish priests acted more aloof than the Italians had previously experienced.[33]

The Irish also acknowledged the differences between their religion and the religion of the Italian Catholics.  Because of the differing rituals and traditions of the Italians, the Irish considered their ways to be “pagan and sacrilegious.”  The Irish remained loyal to the Church as an institution; however, the Italians took a more practical approach to their religious practice and maintained a sense of religious individualism, especially in their folk traditions.[34]

            The celebration of the festa comprised one of the main components of the Italian’s folk traditions.  The festa embraced part of the Italian cultural life and was usually sponsored either by the Church or a group society.  Italians celebrated their festa during the midsummer months with elaborate fireworks, processions, decorations, and other indulgences, which Italians found in their homeland.[35]  The Italians held the festa typically as local affairs in honor of the patron saint of the city.  They viewed the festa as both an expression of their devotion to their patron saint as well as a way in which they “reflected the nostalgia for the life they left behind.”[36]  The festa also represented a way for Italian immigrants to demonstrate the differences between their form of Catholicism and other forms, especially that of the Irish Catholics.  Because of their number and frequency, festa quickly became a characteristic event of the Italian American community.  Those in the community spent weeks preparing for friends and family who arrived for the celebration.  Not only did the homes need to be cleaned and scrubbed, but the family also needed to buy and prepare special Italian foods for their guests.[37]

            An essential element in the celebration of the festa became the smell and taste of the Italian food.  For example, at one particular festa, Mount Carmel for Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and Italian immigrant remembered,

            …the festa of Our Lady of Mount Carmel had a taste.  Big meals, pranzi, were cooked in the homes, and after the festa, family, friends, and neighbors would gather for long and boisterous meals…But it was in the street that the real eating took place.  From the street vendors, the devout could buy beans boiled in oil and red pepper, hot waffles, fried and sugared dough, boiled corn, ice cream, watermelon, sausage, tempting pies filled with tomato, red pepper and garlic, bowls of pasta, dried nuts, nougat candy, raisins, tinted cakes, and pastry rings glistening in the light.[38]


To Italian Americans, eating became the central focus of the days and nights of the festa.  Since food held such profound importance, it served as a means for Italians to preserve the Old World in the New World.[39]

            Similarly, Slovaks also observed celebrations in respect for feast days as well as community gatherings.  For example, picnics became common features for the lives of Slovak Americans living in New York City.  Here the picnics were held in Saucon, Central, and Willow Parks.  The preparation for these picnics rested on the mothers of the families who attended.  The picnics usually lasted all day, from noon to midnight.  The menu for such an occasion might include “pirohy (stuffed dumplings), holubky (stuffed cabbage), gulas (stew), pagace (rolls), kolace (patries)” prepared by the women as well as meats such as “klobasa (garlic sausage) and slanina (heavily cured bacon)” that typically the butcher donated or sold at a very discounted rate.[40] 

Aside from picnics, Catholic Slovaks also held celebrations in honor of the life of Jesus Christ or one of the many saints.  Families continued to observe these holy days each year thus providing a sense of order in their ever-changing world.  The families might have celebrated holy days in the home or in the church; however, the celebrations all united the spirits of the Slovakian people.  Although the celebrations changed throughout Slovakian history, they still remained the “most enduring cultural traits that the Slovaks brought with them from the Old World.”[41] 

            Slovaks celebrated two main religious holy days, Christmas and Easter.  Each of these holy days had their own set of rituals and traditions that families brought with them from the Old World.  For example, the celebration of Easter combined the Christian traditions along with “ancient Slovak rites marking the earth’s springtime renewal.”  However, the main celebration and preparation surrounded the Christian traditions.  One major event for children during the Easter season became the preparation of their Easter baskets.  Once the families completed the baskets, the parish priest blessed the baskets and their contents.[42]  Easter baskets typically contained “painted Easter eggs, Paska (Easter bread), hrudka (an egg and milk mixture resembling cheese), syrek (a form of cottage cheese), klobasa, ham, beets, and horseradish.”  Children often helped their mothers prepare these foods at least to some degree, thus maintaining family traditions and structure.[43]

            Slovakian families also prepared other specialty foods for their Easter celebration.  Paska or braided bread, which consisted of “flour, eggs, milk, brandy, and raisins,” was prepared only for the Easter holiday.  Additionally, Slovak women have become famous for their decoration of Easter eggs.  Slovak women spent countless hours painting intricate designs and patterns onto hard-boiled eggs.  They then taught their skills and abilities to each future generation of Slovak women.  Some Slovak women continued to create these eggs even through the twentieth century.[44]  Also, the family prepared a traditional breakfast, which included, “sausage, baked ham, hard cooked eggs, beet horseradish, sweet butter, paska, sirok (egg roll), home baked twist, nut and poppyseed rolls, and coffee.”[45]  These meals brought Slovak families together and helped to preserve the religious traditions of their ethnicity.

            Christmas Eve and Christmas Day celebrations functioned in the same manner.  Slovakian families held many traditions for these two days. These traditions functioned as a way to hold the family’s culture intact.  As a result, many of these traditions have survived generation after generation even here in America.  According to Slovak custom, the entire family gathered either at the parent’s or grandparent’s home.  Special decorations and preparations, which represented the religious significance of the day, were made for the meal.  For example, families covered their tables with straw or pine boughs as a reminder of Jesus’ birth in the manger.[46] 

The father or grandfather of the family recited a lengthy invocation before the start of the meal, which the mother then followed with her own ceremony of sorts.[47] 

The mother took an oval wafer called an “oblatka,” which she obtained from the parish rectory, and placed one in front of each member of the family seated at the table.  Then the mother coated the wafer with a few sprinkles of garlic, and then lathered it with honey.  Once the mother prepared the wafer, the family member folded it and consumed it much like a sandwich.  The tradition of eating oblatka dates back to medieval times and still possesses its religious significance.  This tradition signified the “sweetness of Christ’s birth, the bitterness of His Life on Calvary, and the Glory of His Resurrection.”[48] 

In other regions of Slovakia, the ceremony continues with slight variations.  After the father or grandfather recited the prayer before the meal, the mother repeated a slightly different ritual with the wafers from the church.  In some regions, the mother dipped the wafer into honey before wiping the wafer on each family member’s forehead in the sign of the cross.  Then a member of the family cut an apple to determine the luck that the family will have for the next year.  “[I]f a star-shaped design appears in the center it signifies good luck; if a cross appears it bodes ill.”  Next, the mother of the family directed the order in which she served the meal. [49]

The traditional Slovak Christmas meal included ten to twelve courses.  Small portions of each course were served to the family members to enjoy.  Some of these courses included “Bobalky’ (Small, round buns of raised dough coated with a poppy-seed and honey mixture); ‘Kolac’ (Raisin Stollen); ‘Pirohy’ (Ravioli, stuffed individually with prune jam, cottage cheese, mashed potatoes, ground meats, etc.); ‘Strudla’ (Fruit Roll); ‘Jahnacina’ (Roast Mutton); ‘Halusky’ (Drop Dumplings); and the remaining items reaching ten in number.”[50]  After finishing foods from these courses, the family would then indulge themselves in the various types of desserts prepared by the mother or grandmother of the family.  For example, the family might eat an assortment of poppy-seed and nut pastries or a variety of fruit and nuts traditionally found in that region of Slovakia.[51]

            The Christmas Eve meal consisted of foods prepared from homegrown crops, so frequently the foods enjoyed by each family varied according to their native location. [52]  For example, the type of soup served during the Christmas meal differed according to the foods available to each family according to the region of the country in which they had lived.  Some families served lima bean and prune soup.  Others, from Central and Western regions, prepared a mushroom soup.  Still others, living in the Eastern regions, might serve sauerkraut soup that the family ate with a mushroom sauce over mashed potatoes.[53]  

            Evidence that immigrants brought these cultural traditions to the New World with them can be found in The Anniversary Slovak-American Cook Book published by the First Catholic Slovak Ladies Union.  This Anniversary Cook Book listed the courses that Slovak Americans prepared for their Christmas Eve dinners.  Many of the foods correspond to foods that were prepared in the Old Country.  For example, the cook book listed the Oplatky, or communion wafer, and honey that was used as a religious symbol before the start of the meal.  The cook book also listed foods such as mushroom soup, pagach, bobalky, fish, beans, sauerkraut, mixed dried fruits, mixed nuts, poppy-seed rolls, and coffee.  Many of these foods appeared in traditional Slovakian Christmas Eve dinners in the Old Country.[54]


Although some religious celebrations represented joyous occasions with food, more somber occasions such as funerals also acknowledged the importance of food for Italian immigrants.  On the day of a funeral, friends of the family would gather at the home in mourning to prepare a meal for the days during the wake and those after the burial.  Following the burial, all of the family and friends of the deceased gathered at the family’s home and participated in a giant feast.  The attendants ate heartily in an attempt to convince themselves that the community would indeed survive this tragedy.  To the Italians, this meal was a perfect representation of their perseverance because they all gathered together eating Italian food that had been prepared by close friends of the family.[55]


Whether the occasion represented a time of joy or a time of sadness, food became an ever-present element of the lives of Slovak and Italian immigrants.  Food at one time functioned only as a means of survival.  Now particular foods eaten at the appropriate times took on symbolic meaning.  For example, food consumed as part of religious rituals contained rich symbolic meaning.  Italian festas served as a means for immigrants to gather and share traditional foods reminiscent of their homeland.  Slovaks, on the other hand, celebrated two main holy days, Christmas and Easter, with rich traditions.  Slovaks attached meaning not only to the food eaten, but also to the manner in which it was served and when it was served.  Food also functioned as a force to unify communities and families.  Communities, particularly those of the Slovaks, used mutual aid societies and celebrations, religious or not, to unite immigrants who came from the same homeland communities.  Since these immigrants remained united, they could continue to carry on their traditions and maintain their ethnic identity.  Food even functioned as a means of preserving strict family structures, particularly those that existed at meal times.  For Italians, the structure was present at every meal and was dictated by the father.  For the Slovaks, the day of the week and the specific foods prepared were the most critical parts of the structure.  The ethnic identity of these two groups survives even today. Evidence, particularly in published cook books and continued traditions, points to the fact that these ethnic groups continue to pass on their cultural identity today.



Alexander, June Granatir. The ImmigrantChurch and Community: Pittsburgh’s Slovak Catholics and Lutherans, 1880-1915. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1987.

Bolchazy, M. Janine, SS.C.M. Slovak Women in Pennsylvania, 1875-1914. Scranton, PA: Marywood College, 1980.

Field, Carol. The Italian Baker. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1995.

The First Catholic Slovak Ladies Union, ed. The Anniversary Slovak-American Cook Book. Chicago, IL: Tylka Bros. Press, Inc., 1952.

Gallo, Patrick J. Ethnic Alienation: The Italian-Americans. Rutherford: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1974.

Gallo, Patrick J. Old Bread, New Wine: A Portrait of the Italian-Americans. Chicago: Nelson-Hall, 1981.

Lorinc, John & Lorinc, Sylvia. The Best of Slovak Cooking. New York: Hippocrene Books, Inc., 2000.

Mikus, Joseph A. Slovakia and the Slovaks. Washington, D.C.: Three Continents Press, 1977.

Nelli, Humbert S. From Immigrants to Ethnics: The Italian Americans. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983.

Nelli, Humbert S. “Italians” in Thernstrom,Stephan ed. Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups.Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press of HarvardUniversity, 1980.

Oddo, Gilbert L. Slovakia and Its People. New York: Robert Speller & Sons, Publishers, 1960.

Orsi, Robert Anthony. The Madonna of 115th Street: Faith and Community in Italian Harlem, 1880-1950.New Haven: YaleUniversity Press, 1985.

Palickar, Stephen J. Slovakian Culture: In the Light of History Ancient, Medieval and Modern. Cambridge, MA: The Hampshire Press, Inc., 1954.

Slovak Catholic Sokol Cook Book, 3rd ed. Passaic, NJ: Slovak Catholic Sokol, 1976.

Stolarik, M. Mark. Growing Up on the South Side: Three Generations of Slovaks in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, 1880-1976. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1985.

Stolarik, M. Mark. The Slovak Americans. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1988.

Stolarik M. Mark “Slovaks” in Thernstrom,Stephan ed. Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups.Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press of HarvardUniversity, 1980.

Yans-McLaughlin, Virginia. Family and Community: Italian Immigrants in Buffalo, 1880-1930. Ithica: CornellUniversity Press, 1977.

“50 Million Loaves Later-Oven Comes to AnthraciteHeritageMuseum”. ScrantonAnthraciteHeritageMuseum, Accession File: AC 95.23 Lucci Bake Oven Master File.



[1] Patrick J. Gallo, Old Bread, New Wine: A Portrait of the Italian-Americans (Chicago: Nelson-Hall, 1981), 74.

[2] John Lorinc & Sylvia Lorinc, The Best of Slovak Cooking (New York: Hippocrene Books, Inc., 2000), vii.

[3] Carol Field, The Italian Baker (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1995), 30. 

[4] Ibid., 21.

[5] Ibid., 26, 30.

[6] Ibid., 17.

[7] Ibid., 17.

[8] John Lorinc & Sylvia Lorinc, vii.

[9] Ibid, viii.

[10] Sister M. Janine Bolchazy, SS.C.M., Slovak Women in Pennsylvania, 1875-1914 (Ph.D. diss., Marywood University, 1980), 2, 18.

[11] Field, 22, 23.

[12] Ibid., 22.

[13] Gilbert L. Oddo, Ph.D., Slovakia and Its People  (New York: Robert Speller and Sons, Publishers, 1960), 97-98.

[14] M. Mark Stolarik, “Slovaks” in Stephen Thernstrom, ed. Harvard’s Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups (Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press of Harvard University, 1980), 929.

[15] June Granatir Alexander, The ImmigrantChurch and Community: Pittsburgh’s Slovak Catholics and Lutherans, 1880-1915 (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1977), 15, 17-18.

[16] M. Mark Stolarik, “Slovaks” in Stephen Thernstrom, ed. Harvard’s Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups, 929.

[17] Ibid., 929.

[18] M. Mark Stolarik, The Slovak Americans (New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1988), 45.

[19] Slovak Catholic Sokol Cook Book, 3rd ed. (Passaic, New Jersey: Slovak Catholic Sokol, 1976), Forward.

[20] Patrick J. Gallo, Ethnic Alienation: The Italian-Americans (Rutherford: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1974), 60.

[21] Virginia Yans-McLaughlin, Family and Community: Italian Immigrants in Buffalo, 1880-1930 (Ithica: Cornell University Press, 1977), 86.

[22] Humbert S. Nelli, From Immigrants to Ethnics: The Italian Americans (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983), 136.

[23] Humbert S. Nelli, “Italians” in Stephen Thernstrom, ed. Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups (Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press of Harvard University, 1980), 547.

[24] Robert Anthony Orsi, The Madonna of 115th Street: Faith and Community in Italian Harlem, 1880-1950 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985), 105.

[25] Ibid., 173.

[26] Nelli, From Immigrants to Ethnics: The Italian Americans, 119.

[27] Ibid., 119.

[28] Ibid., 119.

[29] “50 Million Loaves Later-Oven Comes to Anthracite Heritage Museum.” Scranton Anthracite Heritage Museum-accession file 95.23.

[30] Bolchazy, SS.C.M., 23.

[31] Gallo, Old Bread, New Wine, 182.

[32] Humbert S. Nelli. “Italians” in Stephen Thernstrom, ed., 553.

[33] Gallo, Old Bread, New Wine, 183.

[34] Ibid., 183.

[35] Ibid., 64.

[36] Ibid., 189.

[37] Orsi, 55, 1.

[38] Ibid., 4.

[39] Ibid., 173.

[40]M. Mark Stolarik, Growing Up on the South Side: Three Generations of Slovaks in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, 1880-1976, (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1985), 75.

[41]Ibid., 74.

[42] Stolarik, The Slovak Americans, 78-79.

[43] Stolarik, Growing Up on the South Side: Three Generations of Slovaks in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, 1880-1976, 80.

[44] Stephen J. Palickar, Slovakian Culture: In the Light of History Ancient, Medieval and Modern, (Cambridge, MA: The Hampshire Press, Inc., 1954), 111.

[45] The First Catholic Slovak Ladies Union, ed., The Anniversary Slovak-American Cook Book, (Chicago, IL: Tylka Bros. Press, Inc., 1952), 10.

[46] M. Mark Stolarik, “Slovaks” in Stephen Thernstrom, ed. Harvard’s Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups, 931.

[47] Ibid., 931.

[48] Palickar, 108.

[49] M. Mark Stolarik, “Slovaks” in Stephen Thernstrom, ed. Harvard’s Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups, 931.

[50] Palickar, , 108.

[51] Stolarik, The Slovak Americans, 80.

[52] The First Catholic Slovak Ladies Union, 8.

[53] Stolarik, Growing Up on the South Side: Three Generations of Slovaks in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, 1880-1976, 77.

[54] The First Catholic Slovak Ladies Union, ed., 8.