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The Oklahoman's Food Dude finds inspiration for first book in Pittsburg County

Dave Cathey's book “The Culinary History of Pittsburg County: Little Italy, Choctaw Beer and Lamb Fries” tells the story of frontier survival in Oklahoma's coal belt.
by Dave Cathey Published: August 25, 2013

If you happen to follow me on social media, you might know I recently had my first book published.

The book is “The Culinary History of Pittsburg County: Little Italy, Choctaw Beer and Lamb Fries,” (History Press, $19.99), and my editors at The Oklahoman have been kind enough to allow me to tell a little about it and how the project came to fruition.

When I became food editor in 2008, my dirtiest little secret was never having been to Krebs, one of Oklahoma's unique culinary destinations.

That gustatory sin had not yet been rectified until last October when I booked a two-assignment trip to Pittsburg County.

Turns out, the trip yielded much more than the two stories and cooler filled with coils of Lovera's sausage, caciocavallo cheese gourds and an Andre Champagne bottle filled with homemade Choc beer I brought home.

Within a week of the trip, I got a call from Becky LeJeune, of History Press in Charleston, S.C. LeJeune said her employers had, for the past year, expanded their titles to include tomes on regional food culture. She asked if I knew of anything or place in Oklahoma that might make an interesting book.

“I'm pretty sure I just left the place you're looking for,” was my response.

It took me until after Christmas to find the time to put together a pitch for what the book would be, but it took only a few days before the folks at History Press recognized what people in Oklahoma have known for more than eight decades: the food history of Pittsburg County is as colorful as an Italian flag and richer than J.J. McAlester's bank ledger.

With a strict word count and 60 days to work, I began researching, interviewing and, of course, eating my weight in pasta, lamb fries, sausage and cheese — oh, the sacrifices we endure for our craft.

Thanks to interviews with folks in the Prichard, Lovera, Giacomo, Robertson, Brewer, Pecchio, Fassino, DeFrange and Scarpitti families and a lot of work published through the years, I was able to cobble together a narrative trying to explain the age-old mystery of why for decades folks have come to Pittsburg County in droves every weekend to shop at Lovera's and eat at Pete's Place, Minnie's Place, The Isle of Capri, GiaComo's and Roseanna's.

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by Dave Cathey
Food Editor
The Oklahoman's food editor, Dave Cathey, keeps his eye on culinary arts and serves up news and reviews from Oklahoma’s booming food scene.
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Sales, signings

“The Culinary History of Pittsburg County: Little Italy, Choctaw Beer and Lamb Fries” by David Cathey is available at Full Circle Bookstore and local Barnes and Noble stores. It's also available through History Press ( and It's available in Tulsa at Steve's Sundry, Books and Magazines.

Cathey also is scheduled to sign copies as follows (all in Oklahoma City except Steve's): Full Circle, 6:30 p.m. Thurday; Barnes and Noble Quail Springs, 2 to 4 p.m. Sept. 8; Steve's Sundry, Books and Magazines, 1 to 3 p.m. Oct. 19; and Barnes and Noble on N May Avenue, 2 to 4 p.m. Nov. 29.


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