Spiedies -- Where do they come from?

By Julianne Peixoto

August 1, 2014 Updated Aug 1, 2014 at 11:29 PM EDT

Town of Dickinson, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Spiedies -- they are only known in the Southern Tier. So where do they come from, how did they get here...and what's with their name?

"The history of spiedies goes back to the mountains of Italy," said Spiedie Fest co-founder Paul Van Savage. "Shepherds would tend their flocks and occasionally butcher a lamb, season it with herbs and spices and put it in oil and vinegar to preserve it. Then they would cut a stick off an olive tree and skewer it and cook it over an open fire."

From the mountains of Italy to the hills of the Town of Dickinson, spiedies have been prepared the same way for decades.

"Thanks to the number of immigrants that came from Italy to this part of the country, it became a backyard picnic item, it became more of a phenomenon," said Rob Salamida of Salamida Sauces. "Spiedie is one of the oldest forms of cooking meat."

The word spiedie comes from the Italian word "spiedino", meaning skewer, which is appropriate for the way that spiedies are cooked over an open flame on sticks and skewers.

"A true spiedie doesn’t really need any after sauce or anything like that, some people would put mustard on it, cheese or whatever, but a true spiedie already has the flavor in the meat," said Salamida.

Spiedie Fest is in its 30th year, and what started out as a small cooking contest has grown into an annual weekend-long extravaganza.

"Rob Salamida and I came up with this crazy idea back in 1983," said Spiedie Fest co-founder Paul Van Savage. "It's such a unique culinary treat that you don’t see any place else in the country!"

Salamida has been making spiedies since he was 19 years old.

"I was doing it to work my way through college," said Salamida. "We started bottling the marinade on my parents’ pool table in the basement of the house, one bottle at a time."

Salamida says that even after all of these years, they still bottle his sauces the same way.

His factory produces one million bottles a year using the same process of individually adding each ingredient one at a time.

"It was very difficult in the beginning because people didn’t know where to put a spiedie marinade," said Salamida. "They didn’t know whether to put it next to ketchup, or in the vinegar isle or whatever."

His family has begun participating in the business, and his son Andrew says he and his sister hope to carry on their father's legacy forever.

Andrew thinks Spiedie Fest will remain a tradition in the Southern Tier for a very, very long time.

"Every year we see our numbers going up more and more," said Andrew. "I see this growing and getting bigger and better every year."

Spiedie Fest will continue through this weekend.