Is it possible to have nostalgia for some place that you have never been? I just finished watching a BBC series called Michael Palin’s New Europe. It’s a really good documentary done by one of the Monty Python boys about life in Eastern Europe in 2007. It’s a typical travel show that is really well done, but that’s not the reason why I’m writing about it. Any decent travel show at least touches on the local foods. What I’ve noticed many times, especially with this series, is that when they show the traditional foods of northern Eastern Europe I get hungry and a bit homesick. This is because that food is what I’ve always considered comfort food even though for most people it is exotic and a bit disgusting and/or disturbing. Pickled anything, and I mean anything, gizzards, vegetables, pig’s feet, fish, just to name a few. Headcheese, regular cheese, bread so dense that it could be used in self-defense, duck blood soup (OK, I don’t like this one, it’s too sweet, but my mom loves it), sausages, sausages, and more sausages, mushrooms, herring and other small fish. vodka (duh), cabbage in all of its glorious forms, fat in so many forms and quantities that you wonder how the whole country doesn’t drop dead from a massive heart attack, and certainly not least, horseradish. I think you get the idea, and I’m hungry again.
As for the homesick part, I’m not sure how to describe it. When I see the Old World where my ancestors came from, it’s the same set of emotions that I get when I drive up to visit my folks on their farm. The sensations are almost physical in their intensity. It is a relaxing feeling, but with the knowledge that life isn’t easier out in the country. Simpler, yes, but not easier. I think I’ll just stick with that for now, relaxing but with an underlying edge of uneasiness. When these travel shows talk about the culture and the spirituality of the people, I can easily see why my family behaves as it does. Which is probably another factor in why I get homesick. Poles love food, hospitality, music, gatherings, all with an undercurrent of cynicism, and the more you can combine all of these, the better. Again, this explains a lot about my family.
That’s probably enough early morning ramblings for one post, so I’ll leave you with just one more thought and some pictures! Spirituality, specifically Catholicism, runs deep in both Polish culture and in my family. One of Grandma Rose’s happiest days was when my cousin Thomas took his vows as a priest. Back in 2004, he took a trip to Falkowice, Poland, where Dad’s side came from. Here are some photos from that trip.
I just want to thank everyone who has read, commented, and liked the various posts. I honestly don’t know how everyone (other then friends) found my blog, but it’s a nice feeling. A bit weird, but still nice.
I love my Grandma. She’s 93 years old, still lives in the same farm house she has lived in for the last 60-ish years, and she is not afraid to let you know what she thinks. For example, when I brought Lindsay home to meet my family for the first time, my Grandma commented that “It was about time that I bring someone home.” Yup, direct quote. One of the other reasons that I love my Grandma is because she is one of my inspirations of what food can taste like and the joy that it can bring.
One thing that I grew up on is headcheese. Whenever I tell people that this is one of my favorite foods, I always get one of two reactions. The first option is “Uh, what is that?”, and the second is “Really? People actually eat that???” First, headcheese is a terrine made with the meat off of a pig’s head. This is a fancy way of saying that it is meat suspended in flavorless gelatin. Sounds good, right? To answer the second question, I have only found one person outside of my family that likes it. Narren grew up eating it as well, and I want to thank him for making my family look normal. But yes, people do eat this.
I’ve always eaten it with a little bit of ground pepper on top and a splash of white vinegar. It tastes just like a pork chop that is served cold. I think it’s a texture thing with most people who actually try it. I really don’t understand it because I can’t think of a single person out there who doesn’t like jello. I’m sure that they are out there, but I don’t know any of them. I’m not judging, I’m just saying I don’t get it.
This has been a very long route to what I wanted to get at: My Grandma made headcheese!!!
Earlier I had purchased two pints of heavy whipping for something, but I only ended up using one. The other one was about to go bad so I had to figure out how to use it up. While I was flipping through my bookmarks, I found a cremé bruleé recipe. I’m not going to bother re-posting the whole recipe, you can find a very excellent write-up here: http://www.cookingforengineers.com/recipe/32/Creme-Brulee-Crme-Brle.
The only change I would make to the recipe is to up the amount of vanilla extract. I’m not sure if I would double it, but I would at least go half again the next time I make this.
As bonus to creamy, custardy goodness, I got to buy a blowtorch to caramelize the tops! I still need to work on my technique of browning the top without burning the sugar. I plan on having plenty of practice. If I don’t have the motivation, Lindsay will make sure that I do.
Since we just had chipped beef a little while ago, it was still sitting in the back of her brain. So it didn’t take much of a nudge to get her to cook some more. And surprisingly, it was easy to talk her into letting me document the whole thing.
First the ingredients: butter, milk, corn starch, beef, salt, and pepper.
Melt 2 Tbs of butter in a skillet over medium-low heat. While the butter is melting, start cutting up the beef into one inch squares.
After the butter is melted, slowly stir in a strong Tbs of cornstarch. Make sure you break up any lumps that form. After the cornstarch is incorporated, slowly stir in the milk. Lindsay ended up using about 3/4 of a cup. The amount will vary, just slowly add it until you have good loose gravy consistency. Make sure that you are stirring fairly constantly so the gravy doesn’t form lumps on you.
Add the salt and pepper to taste and give it a good stir. Once everything is mixed in the skillet, add the beef.
Once the beef is heated through, slop it on some buttered toast, and you’re ready to eat!
I’m hesitant to put this down in some form of a record, but I think Lindz can do this better than her Grandma’s.
Lindsay and I had some people over last Saturday for some food, drink, and some scary movies. The grub wasn’t all that special, but it was well received. In other words a bit of everything was eaten and everyone walked away full.
We ended up talking half the night and only watched one movie: The Rite. Naturally since it was a bunch of Seminary students, both the talk and the movie had a theological bend.