Ordering spiedies anywhere but upstate New York is like getting a “Philadelphia” cheesesteak somewhere other than Philly. You’re in suspect terrain until after you taste that first bite.
Which is why I was pleasantly surprised when I tempted my taste buds with a chicken spiedie sandwich from the Cub Scout Pack 175 stand last Thursday evening at the Dalton Fire Company Carnival.
Tender and tangy. That’s how spiedies should be, and these did not disappoint.
You’re probably not alone.
When I mention spiedies in conversation in northeast Pennsylvania, people usually look at me like I have two heads.
“Oh, it’s a food,” they say after I explain. “I thought maybe you meant Speedo, as in the swimsuits.”
Or they’ll just be relieved I wasn’t referring to a drug.
Spiedies (pronounced SPEE-dees) are cubed pieces of meat – usually chicken, pork, lamb or beef – marinated in a special sauce similar to Italian dressing and grilled. They can be served on a hard roll or on a skewer.
The dish originated in the 1920s with Italian immigrants in the Binghamton area. The name comes from the Italian “spiedo,” which translates to “spit,” as in a cooking spit.
Spiedies are most well-known throughout the Southern Tier region of New York, where I first experienced them at a family cookout. They are, however, gaining popularity in the central part of New York as well as surrounding areas.
Several years ago, I was surprised to find bottles of spiedie sauce available locally at the former Ray’s Shursave Market in Factoryville and a few other small local grocery stores. More recently I noticed some of the bigger stores like Sam’s Club and Wegman’s selling cubed meat pre-packaged in the spiedie marinade.
But the Cub Scouts’ stand at the Dalton carnival was the first of its kind I’ve seen in this area. And not only were their sandwiches impressive, but the service was as well.
With a little adult supervision and a lot of enthusiasm, the young scouts took orders, made change, dried cold water bottles with a towel and delivered the food to their customers.
In his eagerness, one boy tripped and almost sent my food flying but made a smooth recovery, setting it safely on the counter in front of me. One of the adults commended his effort, cautioning him to “slow down.”
The scene almost brought a new meaning to the name of the food.
When I returned to the smorgasbord that is the Dalton Fire Company Carnival on Saturday evening, I was tempted to head straight for the spiedie stand again. But wanting to try something new, I ended up at the next tent over for a “famous” roast beef sandwich from the fire company.
This proved another good choice.
During the two evenings I attended the event, which ran Tuesday through Saturday, I also tried the popcorn with butter (lots of butter), the nachos and cheese from the clam and corn tent (which was the most popular, if the line was any indication) and the fried Oreos.
My only regret is not attending all five days and consequently missing out on the cheesesteaks, cheese fries, wing bites, walking tacos, ice cream, slushies, funnel cakes, pizza, potato pancakes and all the other options. After all, there’s only so much food one person can eat in two evenings.
When next year’s carnival comes around, I plan to make a week of it.
And my first stop, if the Cub Scouts return, will be for a chicken spiedie sandwich.