TV chef celebrates success, cooks at church in Coaldale

Sara Moulton of the Food Network shoots a show in Schuylkill County, highlights halupki heritage.
May 09, 2001|By CHRIS PARKER Of The Morning Call

Standing in the kitchen of St. Mary's Russian Orthodox Church in Coaldale, Food Network cooking diva Sara Moulton watched Martha Teno and Dorothy Macinka use their latex-clad hands to ground beef and rice in a big plastic tub.

The mixture would be carefully measured -- using an ice cream scoop -- and placed in cooked cabbage leaves, rolled and then roasted to make that savory Eastern European treat, halupki.

"I've never made halupki," Moulton said with a giggle.

Moulton was in Coaldale on Friday to film a segment for her upcoming fifth anniversary show, to be aired sometime in July.

She came to the Schuylkill County borough at the behest of Marie Ostrosky of Stroudsburg, who has family ties to Coaldale and St. Mary's.

"I used to be Sara's culinary producer for "Cooking Live'," Ostrosky said. "This church has always been one of those little pockets of America that adores Sara, and they still hold with the tradition of cooking from the heart."

Moulton, her long blond hair tied in a neat ponytail, wore a big pink shirt that matched her pink sneakers.

She was quickly put to work chopping cabbage. She labored under the watchful eyes of the church kitchen ladies, Helen King, Teno, Helen Yaroma, Althea Shellock, Macinka and Ann Pishko.

As camera and sound crews deftly sidestepped around the cooks, Moulton and the women boiled cabbage leaves, mixed meat and rolled halupkis.

Several parishioners peered in hushed excitement from the two kitchen doors as she worked.

"I'm learning my favorite thing to learn, which is good old family recipes," Moulton said. "Like the fact that they use the short grain rice, and that they puree the onions. Just little touches. And that they use ice cream scoops to measure out the meat."

Moulton is visiting small towns across America for the anniversary show.

She said she does not know in advance what town she'll be visiting.

"I only knew about a half an hour ago that I was coming to Coaldale," Moulton said.

"Matushka" Suzanne Diehl, wife of the Rev. Andrew Diehl, the parish priest, said halupki is a popular dish at the church.

Matushka is a term of endearment for Russian Orthodox priests' wives.

"Any time we have a fund-raiser in the church we always make halupki," Suzanne Diehl said.

The Diehls' teenage son, Jason, also got into the act.

"I'm a big fan," he said, "and I'm big into cooking."

He often cooks at home, wearing an apron with the words "Chef J" on the front, his mother said.

The family went to the Food Network studios in New York City in January and visited Moulton's set.

"He's the number one salad chopper," his mom said proudly.

Jason Diehl chatted with Moulton's production crew and hung around the kitchen doors, watching her work.

Moulton's journey to Coaldale included a stop at Lengyel's Restaurant in Nesquehoning, where she and her crew chowed down on halupkis and pierogies, said co-owner Garey Lengyel.

"We're big fans of hers," he said. "It was a thrill, that's for sure."

Later, parishioners surprised Moulton with a dinner in her honor. Because it was on a Friday, the catered feast was meat-free.