Grandmas in the Kitchen

Grandmas in the Kitchen

EDIT: It had been my plan to just include the last paragraph of this blog, first printed December 8, 2008 on One Generation to Another. Since this morning, I’ve gotten 3 requests for the complete blog… so here is the post in its entirety… titled… Polish for the Day.

I have a strong Polish ancestry. With the possible exception of contamination from an amorous invader that I am unaware of, I am 100% Polish. (Poland’s history is laced with invasion and occupation from…well, from just about all neighboring countries!) I think I’m fairly rare today…a fourth generation American with a pure blood heritage. It stopped with my children, however. Their father is…well, he’s a mutt. Nothing wrong with that; mutts have many wonderful qualities including hardiness and longevity. But this does mean I can’t share my pedigree with my children; they too are mutts! What I can share with them, however, is the few remaining vestiges of my Polish ancestry.

You would think with all this Polish blood pulsating through my veins that I would be well versed in the culture and traditions of Poland, but I’m not. Both my maternal and paternal great-grandparents were born in Poland and came here hoping to improve their lot in life. Like most immigrants, they settled with their own kind. They spoke Polish in their homes and amongst their friends. It was their children, my grandparents, that ventured out into the American melting pot and brought English into their homes. So, the progression was, my great-grandparents spoke predominantly Polish, my grandparents spoke Polish in their homes, but English everywhere else, my parents could read Polish and speak it well enough to converse with their grandparents but English had become their native language, and I, well the only Polish I know is this rather naughty song that some relative taught me, but it would prove useless if I needed to communicate with a Pole!

Polish traditions followed the trend of the Polish language, with each generation giving up a little more of their connection to their motherland, until now, I’m left with the cultural equivalent of a little naughty ditty! The only time my Polish ancestry surfaces is at Christmas dinner. I serve pierogi (stuffed dumplings), kielbasa (sausage), golabki (stuffed cabbage), makowki (poppy seed bread), kluski (thick buttered noodles), kapusta (sauerkraut), mizeria (cucumbers and sour cream) and sernik (cheese cake). If that sounds Greek to you, it does to me too! In our house we use the English words for most of these foods.

The lovely thing about Christmas dinner, besides some seriously delicious food, is my connection to my past. There was a time when these foods were a mainstay in my ancestors’ daily life. Today, they are reserved for special occasions; actually A special occasion, Christmas dinner. I wish my grandparents were still around to share this feast with us. Since they can’t be, at Christmas I bring not only the memory of Bushia and Grandma Pearl in the kitchen with me, I bring their pictures. On my kitchen counter are photographs of my grandmothers as young women, taken at a time in their lives when they would have been busy preparing Christmas dinners.They remain with me in the kitchen throughout the month of December. I rather think it would make them happy to know I still feel a strong ancestral tug. I also have pics of my mom and daughter there too, even though they spend the day helping me with Christmas dinner. But it pleases me to see the 5 of us together, knowing full well, that if not in body, certainly in spirit, we’re sharing in the festivities of Christmas day, and that although my connection to my ancestry may be tenuous, it’s still alive!

Kimara

10 Comments

  1. wonderful thoughts. thanks for sharing with everyone! I wish I could read the rest of the post, as well! I am an American who studied Krakow at Jagiallonian University, and have since become rather enamored with anything Polish, and adopted some aspects of their culture as my own…I’m going to go Monday to the European Deli to see if I can track down any Pierogis for our Christmas!

    have a wonderful holiday!

    1. Here’s the whole blog. Hope you enjoy 🙂 I didn’t mention it in the post, but we play Polish Christmas music all day too. Great fun! 

      1. Kimara,
        I found your website late last night when looking for felted wool patterns. I just starting felting old sweaters and needed ideas for things to create. Your website is wonderful!! I’ve find so many wonderful crafts to make… Then to my surprise I read your blog about being Polish. I am first generation Polish on both my Mom and Dads side!! And my husband is a German Mutt! We just had everything you listed for Christmas Eve dinner thanks to my Mom, who is the best cook and will make us a Polish feast once a year. My son and husband love all the Polish foods and call them by name.
        I’m so excited about your blog and website. Thank you. Annette

        1. I’m so glad you found us and hope you find inspiration from our site throughout the coming year. Christmas Eve dinner was yummy. Every year I swear I won’t go through all the work again next year, but by next year, I’ve forgotten the pain of making the dinner and only remember the joy it brings… much like having a baby 🙂 Hope your dinner was just as yummy!  

      1. Actually, I think your English is quite good and I love to get your comments 🙂 Glad you enjoyed the post and Merry Christmas to you and yours 🙂

  2. Thanks for the family tradition … sooooo looking forward to tasting it!! See you soon!! 🙂

  3. Dear Kimara,
    I found your web site today – what a wonderful gifted person you are – and so kind to share so many things freely. I sincerely thank you for all of that – Your Christmas blog is quite moving – I have some Polish friends in my country (I live in Port Moresby, the capital city of Papua New Guinea) and they are all wonderful people. At the moment I am in Washington, DC – visiting – and yesterday I went to Pope John Paul II Cultural Centre – with the intention of viewing the 300 creches from around the world and of course the beautifully decorated Christmas Tree -filled with elegant Polish ornaments – however, when I went into Pope John Paul II “room” – I learned so much of the History of Poland – very fascinating – I did not know that Chopin was a Polish and that Madame Currie was also Polish.
    Thank you very much once again for your generous heart – May God’s blessings continue to be with you & your family.

    Warm Regards, Yogi

    1. Sounds like you had a wonderful visit and got to see some interesting very sites! Hope your holiday was lovely and that you are safely back at home 🙂 

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