Oh, so much to tell you all!

I cannot believe I have been away for over five months, approaching six. I feel strange having abandoned a blog and a following I loved and worked hard on.

It’s not because I do not care.

It is simply because my priorities changed.

I also came to some astonishing new realizations about primal/paleo eating: it doesn’t work for everyone. And it didn’t work for me.

I’m still in a mild state of shock over this conclusion. I, like many, thought I’d found the holy grail of health, of vitality, of true nourishment.

I need to collect all my thoughts, all my feelings and every last syllable before I write a very long, and very overdue post.

This site is also getting a serious face lift. I’m not digging the current theme.

Stay tuned for a mind-altering, eye-opening, shocking new post! Coming soon to an internet browser near you!

A Christmas Perspective: It’s very Polish, ritualistic, and sometimes a little sad…

Harry *is* a Christmas present.

Harry *is* a Christmas present.

Oh, look. Christmas is upon us.

Sigh.

Sniffle.

Sob.

For those of us who have lost a loved one, the holidays are exquisitely painful. Birthdays, anniversaries, and other days of memory are always tinged with sadness, but Christmas gets an extra large helping of suffering.

My parents loved Christmas. We had an inexpensive stereo system in the living room, which was always turned to EZ Rock 97.3FM, and once December hit, all they ever played were Christmas tunes.

We loved it. You’d hear the same songs over, and over again numerous times. That got to be minutely irritating, but it was worth it.

Tata would be belting out “Silver Bells” in his faux operatic tenor, while Ma and I would roll our eyes. On the inside, we were giggling. Dad was a complete dork.

Now you know where yours truly gets it from.

Polish people don’t mess around with Christmas. It is taken very seriously, and preparation is done in advance. Mama would bake these small, shortbread style cookies that were sandwiched together with raspberry jam. These would be made weeks before, and stored in in our cold storage room. They were extremely tasty cold, and you better believe I snuck one or two, or many. And then would promptly get in shit for it.

Mama would scurry in the kitchen, furiously making cream cheese and potato perogies (ruskie, or Ruthenian) in large batches. She would freeze them and they’d be ready to be dunked into boiling hot water for Christmas Eve dinner.

Mama also made this incredible wild mushroom borscht. It was a dark, potent brew, filled with small tortelinni style packages stuffed with wild mushrooms. It had amazing depth, and a slight sourness that got you in the back of your jaw. It was my favourite part of Christmas Eve dinner.

Being Catholic, meat was not served.

But there was fish.

I had serious problems with this from a very young age.

“MAMA! But fish is meat!”

“NO EEZ NOT PACHOO”

Years later…

“Mom. Fish. It’s meat”.

“NO PACHOO”

Many years later, with a degree in smart-assedness:

“Hey Ma…fish is flesh. So, you know…that makes it MEAT MA”

“AAAAAAAHHHHHHH…

SHADDUP PACHOO”

We had salmon, we had breaded sole, we had Polish “Greek” fish. What?

It’s fish layered with grated carrot, celery root, onion, some seasoning and a little tomato paste. I never ate it. It looked weird to me. Even when I hit my mid-twenties, I still wouldn’t eat it.

Compote or kompot was a delightful stewed fruit drink. Hot, and sweet, you sipped the ‘broth’ if you will, and ate the stewed peaches, prunes, apples and other chunks of merriment with pleasure.

With that same stereo playing carols care of EZ Rock, we devoured soup, perogies, various non-meat (!) fish dishes, kompot, more perogies, maybe some Black Seal Rum if you were lucky and Mama was in a good mood. Oh my god, the food.

After dinner, you were stuffed. You were so stuffed, in fact, you had no idea how you were going to march up the flight of stairs leading to our family room, where we had a real wood-burning fireplace, our gorgeous Christmas tree AND MORE FOOD. COOKIES AND CAKE.

OH MY.

Presents were exchanged; the television was put on with some typical Christmas movie on. Celebrating went late, as attending Christmas Eve Mass was essential.

I hated it as a child, but over the years, I’ve grown a certain level of respect for it. Good on you if you’re awake and sober by midnight. I haven’t stepped foot in a church in years, for fear I may blow up, or the entire establishment goes up in flames the very moment my fingertips are dipped in holy water.

I am a recovering Catholic. Don’t get me started.

In typical Polish Catholic tradition, opłatek was passed around before dinner. That’s O-PWA-TEK. It’s a wafer similar to the one given out during Mass, but this one is stamped with a nativity scene. Everyone gets a piece. Then everyone goes around to everyone else, breaking off a piece of their own opłatek with the other person and sharing it, all while wishing them enormous blessings and good tidings, health, joy, money and good will for the new year. Hugs and big wet Polish kisses abound. It was a bit embarassing as a child. I must admit, I miss it now. It is a touching, emotional ritual. Ritual is as old as humanity, and I am firmly convinced of the importance of it in our lives. It is entrenched in our DNA, our cell memory, our universal consciousness. Ritual harkens back to older times, to a drum beat, to sacred ceremony. Today, our rituals may include listening to vinyl, preparing a luscious cup of tea, meditating on mala beads, or sharing pieces of opłatek with loved ones on Christmas Eve.

Now that I think about it, every part of Christmas Eve was ritualistic. Food is by far, the most important ritual of all. Sharing delicious, homemade food with loved ones is social, sacred and loving. Laughter is spread like butter on rye, joy and humour fills the air like the smell of kompot simmering away on the stove.

I’m often asked about perogies during the Christmas season. I’ve made perogies from DE SCRATCH once since my parents passed. It’s a mountain of work. You have to make dough. It has to chill. You have to make filling. It must taste just like Mama’s or else, why bother? That means onions chopped finely and fried slowly in butter, with salt and lots of freshly cracked black pepper. Potatoes boiled and mashed, with those savory onions added in and a generous helping or two, or three of Philly cream cheese. It had to be Philly. I’m serious. They didn’t taste the same if it wasn’t Philly.

They were a huge hit. Everyone was in awe. My mother-in-law commented that they were not at all like store-bought, as the dough was nice and thin.

You damn right it was. Rolling that dough was akin to a Crossfit WOD. I used a French style rolling pin, not the kind that’s a cylinder on a rod, and it spins, thus doing the work for you.

GEEZOOS CHRRRIST.

Right, Mama?

I don’t know that I’ll ever make perogies ever again. They are an extreme pain-in-the-ass (and not even Mama liked making them), and labour intensive. They’re also made with flour. I don’t avoid wheat just because it’s anti-Paleo/Primal, but I am assuredly gluten-intolerant. I eat wheat, and only a few minutes later, I’m in pain. It’s not worth it.

I am fully capable of retaining memories, traditions and rituals in other ways. I usually put on EZ Rock at home on my days off. It puts a bounce in my step and makes routine chores seem more enjoyable.

I’ve married into a Swedish family, and that means a very meat heavy Christmas Eve dinner (HAHA MAMA!!!), and some cabbage, pickled herring, rye bread, marzipan and chocolate truffles, and lots of wine. In the past nine years, I’ve celebrated a little too hard, shall we say, and Christmas Eve Mass has missed me again and again.

This year will be different.

While I won’t be stepping foot in a Catholic church, I will be visiting a United church my mother adored on Christmas Eve. It was one year she decided to do something different, and she was completely mesmerized by the evening.

The church was completely dark. Black and mysterious.

But the lights. Oh, de lights, PACHOO.

They had lit candles everywhere.

It was so BEWTIFOOL PACHOO.

She had tears in her eyes gushing all about it.

I’ve flirted with the idea of going one year.

This year, the flirtation ends. And I’ll be thinking of Mama the entire time. If I lose it completely and bawl my eyes out, so be it. If I don’t, so be it.

So be it.

However you remember your deeply-missed loved ones during the holidays, don’t beat yourself up over the past. It’s dead. It’s only a memory, and what is a memory? A thought. Your mind has probably misconstrued and twisted it since then. The past only has power if you steep yourself in it. Do you really want to camp out back there? Do you really want to exist in steeped, over-wrought misery and pain?

I suppose you can. Open the door of your heart, and let that slimy bastard in. You may not want to be friends with it, but maybe acquaintances?

But sit with it. Sit in that pain, that agonizing, sharp stabbing in your heart. Breathe deeply. But sit with it. Here it is, it’s here. You don’t have to like it.

Once you allow yourself to feel it, instead of pushing it away…the pain…

…it will leave. You will not even have noticed when, but it does.

Then celebrate your health, your joy, even if it’s only a shred. They would want you to be happy.

It’s not one day at a time. Hardly.

Grief is an intense process, and in the case of parents, I do not suspect it’s something one ever moves beyond. You only get one set of parents. No matter what your relationship with them, and mine was tumultuous most times, they are ingrained in you, in every part of you. In every cell that makes you.

I will fondly remember Tata proudly singing “Silver Bells”, and if Anne Murray’s version comes on, I will surely cry. So I will let it. Just be it.

I will remember the smell of wild mushrooms, the taste of kompot tickling my tongue, and the crackling of opłatek in my palm.

Remember, and smile. Smile and radiate their love and joy within you. Father, mother, sister, brother, whoever that may be. We all have memories of Christmas with those who have moved past the veil. Keep them close, and smile deeply, down to your gut, your liver, past your appendix, and way deep inside, to your soul.

Whatever you celebrate in the month of December, I wish you a blessed, healthy, warm, loving, romping, hollering, eclectic good time, and a fabulous new year.

(Don’t worry, the food posts haven’t stopped).

Love,
me

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THE MOST BADASS MEATZZA YOU’VE NEVER HAD! (But will again!)

It was a drizzly, blackened evening.

Damp leaves and soggy grass threatened to give way under my feet as I stumbled out of my last bus onto the grass, up the hill to a cat walk.

Going home.

My trusty backpack full of groceries.

I went to Whole Paycheck after work and barely broke $13:

6 organic avocados (on sale)
1 bag frozen broccoli (on sale)
1 bag frozen butternut squash (ditto)
1 large bunch of locally grown spinach

Upon arriving, I got to work in the kitchen. I seared two large pieces of beef shank (that’s osso bucco to you fine readers of mine), and threw a large guillotined head of cauliflower into the crock pot. The cauliflower was sharing the space with a gelatinous goo of pork scraps, onions, garlic, rosemary and other casualties of a long, drawn out pork butt crock pot war.

A local grocery store makes awesome, made-from-de-scratch soup in a jar. Their tomato soup is excellent, and this week, I bought a sweet potato and leek concoction. Delicious. This soup was poured over the cauliflower and just arriving beef shanks, browned and glistening in slick fat, marrow and blood. A final oddment of leftover chicken broth was added at the end, a dash of chopped red onion, a few bits of rosemary. Lid on. Low heat, 8 hours. Done.

Two packages of ground meat were glaring at me from the fridge.

Ah, crap. I’m so hungry. That meat must be made.

Roughly one and a half pounds each of grass-fed beef, and ground lamb.

I threw this mixture together with a random mix of vegetable drawer leftovers. Insignificant carrots, celery. Garlic. Onions. Fresh parsley. The last wave of potent garlicky chicken broth I’d made to stave off illness this past week.

A clever assortment of flavours and textures. As I was mixing, I thought:

Meatloaf.

Bacon on top.

In the oven. Like last week. Yeah. That’ll be tasty.

Ahhh…

No.

Burgers. Let’s make burgers. Yes. Good. Okay.

Brow furrows. Batman scowl.

No.

Then, a thought. A twinkle. A big grin.

OH MY GOD.

This is going to be the MOST BADASS MEATZZA EVER!

Ensuing happy dance.

I’ve done meatzza before. I love it. I actually haven’t made some in a while. Probably because I usually put red peppers on my meatzza, but my body is like, uh, no. We don’t like that. 

Edited March 27th, 2015. I was never ‘intolerant’ to red peppers or any of the hundreds (yes, hundreds) of foods that my IgG blood test said I was. Those tests are bogus.

Fine.

FINE!!!

Bacon fat ensnares taste buds, pleases the belly and brings joy wherever it is mixed in to. Crunchy, crumbled bacon bits top this meatzza that is lovingly draped with wilted spinach, and a merry mix of chopped grape tomatoes.

I don’t care if Jules thinks pigs are filthy animals. He’d eat this badass mother of a meatzza.

I have to watch me some Pulp Fiction soon.

Dig in.

Let joy ensue.

BADASS MEATZZA THAT YOU’VE NEVER HAD (BUT WILL AGAIN)

1.5 lbs ground grass fed beef
1.5 lbs ground lamb
3/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 large garlic clove, smashed, chopped, obliterated
2 small stalks of celery, thinly sliced
2 – 3 small carrots, thinly sliced
1/2 cup chicken broth
A few splashes of homemade soup (Don’t have any? Don’t worry about it)
Small bunch of celery leaves, chopped
Small handful of fresh parsley, chopped
Fresh rosemary
Salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to a hot 375 degrees. Combine this meat and veg amalgam thoroughly. I mean, really. Get in there. Take off your jewelry, watch, and bracelet. Maybe put your hair up. Maybe put on some music. But get in there, dammit!

Make a ball.

Flatten said meat and veg ball onto a baking sheet. I have a typical round pizza one that I used this time, but you don’t have to. When you’re flattening your ball, make sure it’s nice and even. I even formed a bit of a crust around the edges. Toss that bad boy into the oven. Give it 15, 20 minutes tops.

You smell that?

That’s happy.

In the oven.

Take out your ‘crust’. There will be a pool of liquid and fat. Drain this carefully, but don’t toss it! Use it for soup, or for boiling some sweet potatoes in, or squash, cauliflower. That’s flavour, baby. Don’t waste it.

For shame.

Next, crank your oven to broil.

You will need:

1/2 pint grape tomatoes, chopped
2 handfuls of spinach, chopped
2 slices bacon

Chop up your bacon into bits and bites and fry it up until browned and crispy. Scoop out the bacon and set it aside. Don’t eat it. I know it’s tempting. Hell, I’d do it.

Use half the rendered bacon fat as your ‘sauce’. Spread it evenly over the base.

Toss your spinach into the remaining bacon fat on high. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook until just wilted. Baby spinach would be perfect for this, but the adult kind is all I had.

Spread your wilted, bacon infused spinach over the base of your meatzza. Add your chopped tomatoes, and crumble that bacon on top. Salt and pepper.

This now goes into your smoking hot oven.

Now.

WATCH THIS!

Don’t step away for too long.

Use your nose! If it smells good. it’s DONE. The edges of your meatzza will be dark and crusty, the tips of tomatoes barely singed.

Slide this badass mother onto a cutting board. Wait a few minutes.

If you can.

I guess…

Cut it up.

Eat.

Love,
me

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