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Archive for the ‘Poland’ Category

Accompanying a native Pole to her home in a small Polish community
in June is like spring in Austin.  Nature and this lake resort community’s hard work produced a cornucopia of berries, fruits, vegetables and dairy products.  My Polish hostess relished preparing local specialties both for my education and everyone’s pleasure.  And, she wanted to make sure I had ample opportunity to share in their bounty.

I tried to hold to my diet but my Polish hostess would not hear of it. One morning I was offered Milk Soup for breakfast. I grew-up milking cows and had never heard of Milk Soup, so when I saw it, I said “No Way!” But after taking a sip, I discovered it was delicious. It was white like milk and had all sizes of lumps in it. When I asked how the milk soup was made, the answer was “Google it.” And that was the standard reply to my request for recipes for the rest of the visit, maybe to protect family heirloom recipes or maybe due to translation difficulty.

Portions were suitable for those doing hard labor.  The Milk Soup was in a huge bowl with three times the amount I requested.  Next came “one scrambled egg” which must have been an ostrich egg because it was enough for four people. I was so stuffed after breakfast that I was in pain. One hour later, the cooked asked, “Are you hungry? I have a ham and cheese sandwich to tide you over.”

I ate everything placed before me so as not to offend the cook. And the organic dishes continued: potato dumplings, red cabbage, borscht, Polish pancakes the size of a large skillet, pickle soup and homemade cottage cheese. “Freshly made today,” the cook said. And, she could have added, “with fresh-harvested ingredients.” Next were meat bilinis with mushroom gravy and cheese blinies with strawberry sauce. They made the awesome strawberry sauce by “just smashing the strawberries we bought from the farmer’s market today.”  The ultimate palate party came from the wild Chanterelle mushrooms picked fresh in one hour from a Polish forest 15 minutes from the home of the family I was visiting. One hour after cleaning and slicing the mushrooms, the cook served them with butter and the next day with eggs and soups. They were divine.

Eleven days of delicious traditional Polish food wrecked my diet, but it gave me priceless experiences and memories of living with a Polish family for 11 days. And I have the 11 additional pounds to show for that wonderful visit.

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Waiting at the bus stop while visiting my girlfriend’s family in Poland, we noticed an old man riding his bicycle on a busy international highway. This 80-year-old man was riding his bicycle after going two miles to downtown to shop for needed supplies in the city.

After shopping, he always visited his wife’s grave on the way home and sat with her in silence a few minutes, then lit the candles on her marble grave. He has done this every day since his wife died 5 years ago. “They loved each other so much,” the daughter said.  And many times a year, he brought her flowers.

In fact, many of the graves have plants, flower arrangements and lanterns on them year round. Families regularly keep up their loved one’s black, mauve or gray marble grave by washing the stone and cleaning off leaves, trash and weeds. As a result, it is one of the most beautiful cemeteries I have ever seen.

But All Saints Day is the highlight for over 1000 family members who go to the cemetery and put up to 50 lanterns on the 4×8 foot tomb of their loved one, depending on how many the families could afford. Many times, the lanterns cover the entire tomb. Then the families go to church at noon for mass.

After mass, the 1000 family members walk in procession for a mile to the cemetery carrying candles for the graves. After putting the candles in the lanterns, the people visit and admire the massive demonstration of devotion as the entire cemetery of 1000 graves is illuminated in candlelight. “It is a site to behold,” his daughter said.

And every year, a mass is held in the church to honor the old man’s wife and every time he rides his bicycle there to honor her.

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