Showing posts with label Detroit. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Detroit. Show all posts

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Kowalski Kare Package

I had to go in to have some minor surgery and was feeling a little blue about it so I had my sister, Barbara, in Michigan send me down a care package—10 pounds of Kowalski kielbasa, ring bologna and kiszka (blood sausage).

If you have any feelings about Detroit, check this book out if you get the chance. It is about families and about baseball, specifically Detroit Tiger baseball, The Final Season: Fathers, Sons, and One Last Season in a Classic American Ballpark (Honoring a Detroit Legend) by Tom Stanton. I loved this book, having picked it up at the Ft. Myers airport on a trip to Detroit. It was so sweet. It combined the story of a father and his son, with the story of the author and his Polish family in Detroit. And, of course, baseball, and the Detroit Tigers and their final season at Tiger Stadium at Trumbull and Michigan in Detroit. It had so many parallels with our own family including the eating of what we called Keeshka—the only reference to keeshka I have ever see in any book (except Polish cookbooks) I have ever read!

Genuine Kowalski Kiszka--direct from Detroit! Not even most Polish people like it but my brother and sisters and I inhale it.

Kiszka is an acquired taste. It is a combination of buckwheat, beef blood, finally ground pieces of beef and pork that you probably don’t want to know where it came from, onion and spices. We always had it for breakfast.



Kiszka “Keeshka” (Blood Sausage)

1 half ring Kowalski Kiszka
1/2 onion minced
2 tablespoons butter

Sauté onion in butter in frying pan until onion is translucent  Remove casing from kiszka. Cut kiszka into slices. Add to onion and butter.Stir occasionally until combined and browned.Serve with fried eggs and white toast.


Kiszka, eggs sunny side up and toast with butter and homemade strawberry jam--A breakfast fit for a Polish Prince!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Polish Christmas on Florida Street in Detroit

Listen to Polish Christmas Carols (Polskie Kolędy) here.
Every Christmas we went to our grandmother's house on Florida Street in Detroit on Christmas Eve. It was an annual tradition. We would all be bundled up in heavy coats with scarves and mittens. There always seemed to be snow. One of the babies was always sick--that too, seemed to be part of the tradition.

As we walked in, carrying bundles of gifts, my first memory was of seeing the Christmas tree. Uncle Ed and Aunt Sophie had the greatest tree. It seemed to have hundreds of lights (the big, brightly colored ones, not the little Italian ones of today). There were unusual ornaments--angels with feathers, birds with brilliant tails, and lights filled with colored fluid that would bubble, as they got warm. Underneath the tree was a beautiful Manger scene with intricate figurines.

The heat inside the house was intense. It was like opening an oven door, but, ah, the wonderful smells. The smell of the Christmas tree mixed with those of sauerkraut, mushrooms, stewed fruit, and frying butter. Babci (our grandmother), Aunt Sophie, and other aunts were in the tiny kitchen cooking. Mother would join them in the kitchen as the older kids hung by hoping for a sample. Uncle Ed would let us go down into the basement to get a soda--you had to duck your head going down, even when you were little. Cream soda was the best--we never had it at home.

It seemed like the aunts and uncles and cousins would arrive in waves: Uncle John and Aunt Hattie and Cousin Marie. Uncle Mike and Aunt Louise with cousins Buddy, Frank, Fred, and John, and Uncle Vince with Aunt Mary and Cousin Tom. Each wave with their own bundles, shaking off snow, and taking off coats and hats and gloves. Presents were whisked away. It would be hours before we saw them.

Then it was time for dinner. I always thought there was supposed to be an odd number of courses, but others have told me that is should have been even. Mushroom soup with boiled potatoes. Pierogies with potatoes and cheese or sauerkraut and mushrooms. Kasha. Pickled herring. Stewed fruit. Everything was delicious. There was also always an empty place setting at the table in case an unexpected guest should arrive recalling the biblical tale of Joseph and Mary, when they found no room at the inn. In the center of the table was the oplatek, a rectangular piece of wafer imprinted with a religious scene. Everyone at the table shared the wafer. We wished each other health, wealth, and happiness and often a special wish.

My favorite memory of Christmas was when my cousin John suddenly appeared during dinner on Christmas Eve. He was in Vietnam during the war and was not expected home. Of course, there was a place for him at the table! All of the aunts and even some of the uncles, cried.

After dinner, we would sing Christmas carols. Our father was a great singer of Polish Christmas carols. He and Uncle John usually led the singing. Dad had a small, thick, green book with all of the Polish kolendy (Christmas carols) in them. Dad knew the lyrics and the melodies by heart. I always wondered where he learned them. Babcia, with her high voice, would sing with the uncles. Her voice was such a contrast with the low voices of dad and Uncle John. If dad and the uncles had enough Christmas "spirit”, they would go outside and serenade the neighbors with carols.

While we were singing, a couple of the uncles would disappear and rustling sounds could be heard above us. All of a sudden, a ringing bell could be heard outside. The little kids all knew what that meant--Santa Claus was here! Those rustling sounds must have been reindeer on the roof!

Santa always had bags and bags of presents. One of the kids was chosen to help Santa distribute gifts. More bags of gifts appeared from the back of the kitchen. There were toys galore. I think each aunt and uncle would try to outdo each other giving gifts. You knew childhood was over when, instead of toys or games, you received clothes as your Christmas gift! Babci always gave us three silver dollars--our mother saved them for us for over forty years.

After the gifts were opened it was time for treats. I do not know why, but Aunt Sophie served us spumoni ice cream, but was always a part of Christmas. It was a rich Italian ice cream with almond flavoring and pistachio nuts and candied fruit. We ate it along with poppy seed and nut filled coffeecake. Aunt Hattie would make pastries called chrusciki. We called them angel wings. They were as light as a feather!

We almost never made it to Midnight Mass. I do not know how we ever made it home. We must have been re-bundled up, the presents loaded, treats for Christmas Day wrapped up, and all of us finally on our way home in one of Dad's Desoto’s.

Mom and Dad took care of everything--it a very big chore for them with five children, as they still had to play "Santa" for us at our house on Christmas morning! It was only the start of a hectic season of visiting family and friends and, in turn, having friends and family at our house.

These are my memories. There are other memories of Christmas, but this is what I leave to my brother and sisters, nieces and nephews, their children, and my friends. It is a memory of a simpler time, when grievances were forgotten, and wishes were exchanged--for a better year, a better life. It was an acknowledgment that, after all, we were family--and family was important!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

About me

I grew up in the glory years of Detroit and its surrounding area of southeastern Michigan. World War II was in the past, and the boom times were in full gear. I was born in 1950, on a farm, part of an 80 acre plot my father's mother and stepmother, my grandparents, acquired after working in the factories in Detroit. We lived on two acres of the plot where my father built a solid two-story red brick house in mock-Tudor style, with a detached garage, also of red brick. In a small farming community of mostly wood clapboard farmhouses, our brick house stood out: It spoke of middle class and success. It was an age of anticipation, of transition; we wanted to hold on to the past, but we were looking forward to the future.

The 1950s were glory years for me and a booming Detroit. But as the decade waned, people started leaving Detroit for bigger and better things in the suburbs. The elderly and those who did not have the resources to leave Detroit were left behind. With rising unemployment and crime the city began to die. But for me the 1950s were golden years and figure large in my story.

The Polish recipes I remember reflect our origins as Polish peasants. Many of the recipes include cabbage, potatoes, mushrooms, and smoked meats. These were hearty recipes that could sustain a family through hard times. My ancestors fled Poland in the early 1900s for the promise of a better life in America. They found jobs in the autombile industry in Detroit. Then the Depression came, followed by World War II, lean and difficult times.

I was born in a lucky time. Life was good and food was plenty. My first plan for this cookbook was to include only Polish recipes that were associated with our family and for the most part it will be just that.

As I build upon the blog, however, I will also include recipes that have become favorites of mine through my world travels. As an adult I spent many ears living overseas as a teacher for the U.S. Department of Defense Dependents Schools (DoDDS) and also working for the Arabian American Oil Company in Saudi Arabia for a number of years. So many recipes from those times have become part of my own life. They are not always Polish recipes, but I have decided to include them because I continue to make them or if there is a story attached to a recipe.

To all who enjoy my contribution to the tradition of Polish recipes, embellished with my lifetime of travel, I wish you "Smacznego - Bon Appetite"!