Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A Merry Ethnic Christmas

By Patricia Rosemoor, half of Lynn Patrick

My dad’s mother cooked ethnic. She and my grandfather were from “the old country.” Grandpa Harry was Ukrainian and Grandma Anna was half-Ukrainian and half-Polish, so I ate a lot of Eastern European food as a kid. Now I usually only have those delicacies on my own table on Christmas Day when I add favorite foods of my childhood to traditional dishes.

Sometimes I make a beef rib roast but more often a pork roast or ham. I make fabulous cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes with brown sugar and pecans.




But the dishes that make Christmas special to me are potato pierogis browned in butter and bacon fat and topped with bacon bits and sour cream,


 




kielbasa (Polish sausage) with kapusta (sauerkraut),






a poppy seed roll







and chrusciki (fried bow tie pastries with powdered sugar).





I’m not saying I make everything from scratch...though I have done so in the far past. Thank goodness for Polish grocery stores in Chicago! I do know how to add my own touches to make everything taste great!

Which brings me to my Polish cleaning lady, who cooks for her extended family on Christmas Eve. I asked her what kind of food she would make, expecting her to say pierogis and kielbasa and kapusta. But no. To her, that is “cheap food.” She says she always makes fish. Which got me curious as to what people in Poland, the Ukraine and Lithuania (my mom was half-Lithuanian) would actually eat for Christmas.

To start, the big day in all three countries is Christmas Eve. People fast all day, then, at sight of the first evening star, sit down to twelve meatless dishes, which represent the twelve apostles (to those who are Catholic, that is). No meat, no eggs, no milk. Specific dishes may differ from country to country, but some are universal. Like fish (herring, carp or pike), mushrooms (pickled or in kapusta), and a variety of grain dishes (boiled or deep fried dumplings -- Polish: pierogi, Ukrainian: varenyky, Lithuanian: auseles). Poppy seeds in dishes are common, because they symbolize abundance and prosperity.

Christmas Eve supper is served under candlelight after the first star appears, symbolizing the birth of Jesus in Christian tradition and the soul of a deceased ancestor in pagan beliefs. In Poland and parts of Ukraine, an extra seat and plate are left for a live or a deceased loved one, to be welcomed as a guest.

Whatever you celebrate -- Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice or Christmas -- Linda and I wish you a Happy Holiday!








22 comments:

  1. Good heavens, it all sounds so good! Merry Christmas!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I had a friend who used to make pierogis for some of our women get-togethers. We all loved them a lot. Haven't had any of the other Polish foods, but they all sound great.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are so lucky. I remember my grandmother's homemade pierogis. I made them myself a couple of times, but it took me so long, I decided to find places that sold them. My favorite closed years ago, so I had to scramble until I found a store that had those great fresh pierogis with a delicate dough. The ones you can buy in a regular grocery store simply aren't the same. But I eat them, too, a time or two a year. :)

      Delete
  3. Looking at those pictures gave me such an appetite. Have a wonderful holiday.

    ReplyDelete
  4. These ethnic dishes sound delicious, but your family ones, along with your memories, are probably the most precious.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Patricia, I really enjoyed this post. I'm Polish, too. On both sides of my family. (Maiden name Vickaryous - my granddad changed the spelling from Wikaryasz so it would be easier to spell LOL!) I love all of this food so much, especially pierogis. When they are made right, they just melt in your mouth.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Despite the fact that my legal name is Pinianski, that the Ukrainian part of me. Another one of those names changed because whoever checked him in couldn't deal with the Ukrainian spelling. Which is Cyrillic as Russian is. However, my late husband, a Majeski, was really Lithuanian. Go figure.

      Delete
  6. I'm starving now! I don't know about that poppy seed roll but everything else makes my mouth water! Our Christmas tradition is Italian Beef sandwiches on Christmas Eve so we can quickly get to the present opening at my parents. The little kids never want to wait for a whole sit-down meal before getting to the good stuff ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would love that poppy seed roll with my coffee now :) Love Italian beef sandwiches, too. A different tradition.

      Delete
  7. Oh, goodness. That empty plate? I think I'll be your guest. Everything sounds and looks so delicious. Merry Christmas from one Patricia to another. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Patricia, and Merry Christmas to you.

      Delete
  8. You had me at fried bow tie pasta. Or just at "fried"

    ReplyDelete
  9. Patricia! When I was really young, my mom was a short-order cook in a restaurant with Polish people. I loved pierogis, and the sausage and sauerkraut! Am not a delicate eater at all. Love the hearty stuff. I think that empty-place-at-the-table tradition crosses a lot of ethnicities. We did that, too (French and Portuguese.) Merry Christmas to you! (Thanks a lot. My Raising Bran just wasn't enough after all those wonderful photos.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When I was really young, my mom worked as a waitress at the corner restaurant across from my school. Both were Italian. And on Fridays, I used to go there to get my favorite -- gnocci!

      Delete
  10. Oh, all of these dishes sound delicious, Patricia.
    I'm not Polish, but I LOVE potato pierogis. We have them at least once a month. They're not homemade, but there Mrs T's and when they're doctored up...YUM!
    Merry Christmas!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Loved this post and the descriptions! So interesting! I love learning about different traditions and how the holidays are celebrated in different cultures or beliefs. Great post!

    ReplyDelete