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Gas industry gives Pa. stores taste for the South

GENARO C. ARMAS
The Associated Press
Modified: May 3, 2013 at 6:15 pm •  Published: May 3, 2013
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/articleid/3806174/1/pictures/2043465">Photo - In this Monday, April 1, 2013 photo, Boudin, a pork and rice sausage popular in Louisiana, is seen in the cooler for sale at the Country Store market where it was made in Pennsdale, Pa. An influx of workers from the South to fill jobs in the natural gas industry in north-central Pennsylvania has led area catering businesses, restaurants and grocery stores to offer more Southern cuisine like jambalaya and boudin. (AP Photo/Genaro C. Armas)
In this Monday, April 1, 2013 photo, Boudin, a pork and rice sausage popular in Louisiana, is seen in the cooler for sale at the Country Store market where it was made in Pennsdale, Pa. An influx of workers from the South to fill jobs in the natural gas industry in north-central Pennsylvania has led area catering businesses, restaurants and grocery stores to offer more Southern cuisine like jambalaya and boudin. (AP Photo/Genaro C. Armas)

Store manager Kathy Fleming said Hurley's also now stocks mayonnaise from Blue Plate, a brand that dubs itself the "Legendary Spread of the South." And the market is looking for a distributor for live crawfish, since what Hurley's sells now is shipped frozen.

Like many of the workers, Jerry Roberts, a drilling foreman on a rig outside Montoursville, flies home to Mississippi every two weeks. When he returns to Pennsylvania, he often brings culinary comforts from home. He says he loves almost everything about Pennsylvania. Almost.

"I hate bland food," Roberts said in his office trailer half-jokingly. "I want a biscuit. And I want some gravy. And I want some sausage in that gravy. Some Jimmie Dean. I want some salt and black pepper in it."

All these changes have made eating easier for people like Cameron Simon, who came from Houston four years ago to be a regional operations manager for Stallion Oilfield Services in Williamsport. Until recently, making Tex-Mex food at home was a challenge.

"It used to be you could only find a couple cans of salsa and a couple cans of black beans," he joked. "It has certainly been interesting kind of how everybody embraced that change and opportunities. ... It's nice to have that taste of home."

Richard Hoschar, owner of the Chef Hosch and Ann Catering Mobile Kitchen, does the usual catering work, including weddings. But lately he has made serving up Southern cooking to the gas workers a mainstay of his business. On a recent day in the gas fields, he ladled out jambalaya with sides of cornbread and banana pudding.

His pitch is making authentic cuisine on site. On this overcast afternoon, the pungent smell of jambalaya wafted out of the truck, and workers trickled over for lunch. Hoschar, of Williamsport, said he had his mobile kitchen designed for working gas drilling sites, some of which are rural enough to be difficult to get to.

"You have to have the right vehicles to get on site. I made sure that I met all the safety requirements," he said. "I'm licensed as a mobile restaurant. That's where I set myself apart."

Conversely, transplanted workers get a taste of different foods, too. The Williamsport area is full of mom-and-pop Italian restaurants.

"You can get pizza here that you can't get in Texas," Simon said. "That whole change has been nice for us."


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