Tag Archives: paleo

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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Seared Sage Pork Chops with Apples and Cardamom, aka ENJOY DUCK FAT RESPONSIBLY

Mother Nature weeps.

She blows, gusts and storms, pounding through the east coast.

I hope you are all keeping safe while Hurricane Sandy thrashes about outside.

She’s clearly mad because she doesn’t have enough fat in her diet.

Rainy weather always brings a particular song to mind, from my favourite band of all time, James:

There’s a storm outside, and the gap between crack and thunder
Crack and thunder, is closing in, is closing in
The rain floods gutters, and makes a great sound on concrete
On a flat roof, there’s a boy leaning against the wall of rain
Aerial held high, calling “come on thunder, come on thunder”
Sometimes, when I look deep in your eyes, I swear I can see your soul
Sometimes, when I look deep in your eyes, I swear I can see your soul

I hope our power doesn’t go out as I type this.

As you all know, I’ve been on a super strict eating regimen since late July thanks to numerous food intolerances. This means no eggs, no dairy, no gluten (gee, that’s a hard one), and certain vegetables and spices. As per Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint, I could be eating dairy if my body allowed it.

But it sure doesn’t. Congestion follows; I really don’t need that in my life.

I feel like I should rename the site to PaleoPat, as I’m hardly scarfing any dairy. But alas, PaleoPat doesn’t have the same ring to it as PrimalPat, now does it?

Edited March 27th, 2015. It’s amazing what ‘symptoms’ we convince ourselves we have because we were told we have ‘intolerances’. I was never intolerant to anything. IgG tests are bullshit. I spent nearly $500 on mine.

Fall is upon us, and if it wasn’t screaming wind and hurling rain outside, it would be rather lovely: copper, scarlet and gold leaves teasing us from solemn trees.

This also means tucking in to a bowl of savoury stew, squash, ripe apples, and pumpkins. Flavours that harmonize well with cinnamon, cloves, and sage.

Okay. Are you sitting down?

Good.

You like pork, right?

Wait. Of course you do. You’re reading my blog.

I bought three mammoth sized pork chops with the bone-in from Medium Rare and created a dish that’s perfect for a miserable evening such as this.

But really. Any evening will do. Especially if you need cheering up. I promise: this meal will make you go “OH MY GOD” and “HOLY $#@!” because as usual, it’s luscious, rich, and if…if…you’ve fallen off the Primal/Paleo bandwagon, fear not. Despite your binge of processed white flour, sugar and rancid omega-6 laden fats… OMG PAT STFU. WHITE FLOUR, SUGAR AND ALL FATS ARE DELICIOUSABLE.  

you’ll feel like you came home once the combination of pork, duck fat, sage and apples flirt with your tongue.

I promise.

Or I’m not PrimalPat.

Dammit.

Now…

DUCK FAT.

Yes, there it is. DUCK FAT.

Can you dig it? I was passionately in love with the wild boar lard I purchase fervently from Medium Rare. I dream about it. I salivate just thinking about it.

(Okay, no I don’t…yes, I do…no…wait).

But after Canadian Thanksgiving, I stopped on by, looked in their fridge to happily embrace two tubs of it…

…but…

…THEY WERE SOLD OUT.

OH GOD!

Heart palpitations. Shallow breathing. Sweaty palms.

Okay, I need my animal fats, and I need them NAOW.

Wait. What’s this?

Duck fat?

Hmmmmmm. Okay, let’s do it.

I seared my pork chops in some duck fat when I made this dish. Later on that evening, when I was ravenous and needed something to eat, I dug in. That’s when my taste buds screamed:

“You’ve taken the exit from Same Ol’, Same Ol’ Highway into FLAVOUR CITY OH MY GOD!!!!11!!!1111!1!1!1”

So on, and so forth.

Please enjoy duck fat responsibly.

Seared Sage Pork Chops with Apples and Cardamom

Three mammoth sized pork chops with the bone-in, roughly 1″ thick
A very generous cracking of black pepper
Sea salt, himalayan salt, whatever
Generous amount of dried sage
A sprinkling of onion powder
5 cloves
5 cardamom pods
1 Royal Gala apples, cut into chunks. Use what you have.
THE MIGHTY AND SCRUMPTIOUS DUCK FAT…MAY INDUCE FOODGASMS ABOUND. I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE IF YOUR WIFE/HUSBAND/SIGNIFICANT OTHER/CAT/DOG DISPLACES YOU FOR DUCK FAT. FAT LUST IS SERIOUS BUSINESS.

It happens.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Coat your awesome pork chops in all dried spices, except the cloves and cardamom. In a pan over medium high heat, melt your OHMAHGAWDSOAMAZING duck fat, roughly one tablespoon. Sear your pork chops until beautifully golden brown. Remove from your pan, and set these aside in a roasting pan.

Add your apples to the frying pan, and sauté over medium heat in the leftover fat and herbs for about 15 minutes. Add an extra dash or two of dried sage, and season with salt and pepper. Add in your cloves and cardamom pods*.

*Gently crack your cardamom pods before adding them; this way they can release their fragrant citrus notes and party hard with your pork and apples. Continue cooking for another 3 – 5 minutes, covered.

Add this glorious mixture to your pork. Now whack the whole thing into the oven for approximately 15 – 20 minutes. Don’t overcook your pork, or I’ll come over and slap you. Dried pork is shameful.

SHAMEFUL!

Don’t disappoint me. That hurts. Right here.

*points in general heart direction*

I should also let you all know…I’m currently out of duck fat…AND lard…

…OH GOD! THE END IS NEAR!

Remember: enjoy luscious animal fats responsibly. Now if you excuse me, I have to find something to eat…

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Saucy, Naughty Braised Veggies with Garlic and Rosemary

Hey!

Hey you.

Yes, you. The good looking one heading for the kitchen.

Whatcha making?

Steak?

Ooooooooh!

Then you also have to make this:

Saucy, Naughty Veggies with Garlic and Rosemary

I seared my 2.5lb grass-fed steak in a bunch of beef tallow. The kitchen smelled like a barnyard. Wifey and I agreed there are far worse smells. I love beef tallow because it is richer and has more depth than butter. Yes, I said it.

Beef tallow is better than butter.

Once you’ve picked your jaw off the mouth at that statement, keep reading.

I finished off the steak in the oven at 380 degrees for about 10 minutes. Then I took it out to rest.

What was left over in the pan was a bunch of leftover fat and beef juices.

Whole Foods carries these ridiculously convenient package of mixed organic veggies. I got a shit ton of savoy cabbage, purple cabbage, juilliened carrots, and red onion. I made a large portion for myself, and yet still have enough to feed us both for about two more meals. All this cost me a little over $3.

Allow your pan to cool off once it comes out of the oven.

What we’re going to do in about 15 – 20 minutes is what usually takes an hour or more with tough meat. Cooking in liquid on low heat breaks down muscle and tendons, making them buttery soft and exceedingly delicious.

Only we’re going to do that with a veggie that most people don’t like.

Cabbage.

It’s going to be so good, that you will personally email me and/or comment and tell me all about the foodgasm happening in your mouth, all while typing furiously on the keyboard, getting steak and veggie stuffs everywhere.

Heat your frying pan on high with the leftover beef goodness. When hot, add in your onions. Salt and pepper them. Keep tossing them about, like hyperactive kids on a trampoline. Keep the pan hot and things moving!

Add in your carrots. Repeat as above. Toss, dance, etc.

Now cover this with a lid and leave it for a minute.

….

It’s been a minute. Your pan should be steaming, veggies browning and glazed over like a happy teenage drunk on a Saturday night. Splosh in another tad of water. Cover! Shake!

Ready? Wait another thirty seconds.

…..

Okay!

Now, add in a hefty portion of cabbage, both green and red. Salt and pepper again. Toss, dance, sing! Keep this stuff moving! You should have a slightly browned (but not burnt) amount of beef and veggie debris stuck on the bottom of the pan. Another splash of water.

Cover.

Shake your pan.

Shake it, shake it, shake it Salome.

Uncover!

Is it a hot sexy mess in there? Gleaming, fragrant and auburn. Add two whole garlic cloves. Turn your heat down to medium high. Keep the pan moving while still covered.

Add a small spring of fresh rosemary, torn up into bits.

Continue tossing, stirring, scraping flavour bits from the bottom of the pan. A wooden spoon is great for this.

Your veggie concoction will be wilted, saucy and dead sexy. Serve with your unbelievable steak.

Let the party BEGIN!

I’m waiting for your messy emails.

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