You might recall that I recently had my spit, er, saliva analyzed by ancestry.com, from which I learned that I am 13 percent Swiss, 4 percent Swedish, 2 percent Baltic States, and a full 71 percent Polish. My Polish ancestry comes from my mother, whose parents were both Polish. Well, perhaps somewhere way back in my ancestry, one of my great-great-great grandfathers messed around with a Swedish milkmaid or a Latvian princess to account for that 6 percent in my DNA makeup.
Ever since I got my results, I have been craving Polish food. This isn’t particularly surprising. I’m very susceptible to outside influences. It’s one of the reasons I chose the DNA testing for my ethnic background only. You can choose the fancy-dancy one that will also tell you your health background based on your ancestry, and to what diseases or health issues you are susceptible. When Bill had his DNA test done, for example, he learned that he had wet ear wax. Now, there is some critical knowledge necessary for one to face old age. Being somewhat of a hypochondriac, I knew that if I found out that my ancestors had tendencies towards prostate cancer, I would start feeling pain in my nether region despite the fact that I am WOMAN and have no prostate. Also, hear me roar. (Only Baby Boomers get that reference.)
Despite my mother’s Polish ancestry, she didn’t really cook Polish food. I never ate, for example, lazanki z kapusta i grzybami, which is a typical Polish dish made out of cabbage, pork, carrots, onions, and homemade noodles. Nor did she prepare sledz w oleju z cebula, which is herring with onion. Both actually sound quite good, but neither appeared on our dinner table. I think my mother didn’t prepare Polish food because her mother never taught her to cook; instead, she learned from her Swiss mother-in-law. In fact, I would venture to guess that Mom didn’t eat Polish food growing up. My Polish ancestors emigrated to the United States quite a few generations ago and were more likely to eat fried chicken than herring.
We did on occasion (happy occasion in my eyes) have golabki, though she called them cabbage rolls. Parboil cabbage until you can gently pull off the leaves, and then fill them with a mixture of ground beef and spices, and cook them in a tomato sauce. I have her recipe (in her own handwriting), but rarely make it because, frankly, it’s kind of a pain in the bee-hind.
The only Polish tradition I remember growing up was that she always prepared fresh Polish sausage and soft boiled eggs for Easter breakfast. We often had sausage, but it was generally the kielbasa that you buy at the grocery store. For Easter breakfast, she would buy fresh Polish sausage from someplace (my suspicion is from Nied’s Meats, “Nieds” short for Niedbalski, and a well-respected Columbus butcher shop. Anyway, it was delicious.
And for the thirty-some years during which I have been responsible for Easter breakfasts, I have followed suit. Unfortunately, most of the time I have purchased Hillshire Farm smoked kielbasa. But last year, I discovered a Polish restaurant and market some 30 minutes from our AZ house. Bill and I made the trip west, and purchased fresh Polish sausage.
Yesterday, we made the same trip. First we ate a pierogi lunch…..
Pierogis, by the way, are also something my mother never made. I, however, am determined to take a stab at them. They are wonderful dumplings filled with mashed potatoes and scrumptious things like bacon or mushrooms or onions.
And then I stopped at the market to pick up my Polish sausage for Easter Sunday. Like last year, I will cook them in water flavored with onions and garlic and bay leaves and peppercorns and other good spices, and then finish them in my cast iron pan…..
We enjoyed our Polish adventure, and it reminded me of my mom.