On the field, it’s Packers vs. Steelers. In Las Vegas betting rooms, it’s Mr. Rogers vs. Big Ben. In the bleachers, it’s Cheeseheads vs. Terrible Towels.
But what about the pregame kitchen and parking lot tailgate? This year, it’s a cook-off between slow-brewed booyah and pan-fried pirohy; between Wisconsin grilled brats and Western Pennsylvania kielbasa and sauerkraut.
In sports, as in life, we are what we eat. You don’t need a Super Bowl program to discover some flavorful differences between this year’s teams.
Booyah is a slow-cooked chicken and vegetable stew, brought to Green Bay by French-speaking Walloons from southern Belgium. More people of Walloon ancestry live in the four-county area around Green Bay than in any other region of the United States.
Pirohy is the distinctly Carpatho-Rusyn (pronounced Roosen) version of homemade dough pockets, filled with potatoes and cheese or sauteed sauerkraut, similar to Polish pierogies. Census figures count some 66,000, Carpatho-Rusyns in Western Pennsylvania.
So, what can these two ethnic communities reveal about Sunday’s match-up?
Many Walloons came to Wisconsin as farmers — first raising wheat, and then changing to dairy cows. If not for poor soil and insects ruining the wheat crop, Packer fans today might be wearing foam bread bowls on their heads.
Many young Carpatho-Rusyn males came to Pittsburgh at the start of the industrial revolution — thinking they would earn money and return home. The start of World War I prompted many to change course, and bring their families to America for good.
In the 1970s, Steeler fans of Eastern European descent saluted linebacker Jack Ham by hanging a sign that read, “dobre shunka,” which translates to “Good Ham.”