As I’ve delved more deeply into the family food traditions of many Americans past and present, I can’t help but look back at my own past and begin to mine my own memories. One thing that stands out in my memory, especially around this time of year, is a phenomenon known in my family simply as “Polish Easter” which my father has championed for almost as long as I can remember. As we grew older and Easter became less about going to Church, and more about seeing relatives (or sometimes just making it home from College) and of course, FOOD, Polish Easter became a day-long eating event that defined the holiday.
Polish Easter typically consists of the following:
Pierogies (with farmers cheese, and/or sometimes potato, onion, or mushroom and cabbage)
Kielbasa (homemade from the local Polish deli)
Horseradish (for the kielbasa)
Sour Cream (for the pierogies)
Needless to say, it is enough to tide you over until Easter dinner, which was typically some kind of ham or lamb – centric meal, sometimes with more pierogies, vegetables, potatoes, and other side dishes. There are typically copious amounts of pies or honey cake to follow.
And that’s not even including candy.
For anyone who’s still reading and already feeling stuffed, I sympathize. And yet, Polish Easter continues to define the holiday for us, even to the point where my father brought it on the road.
This year, my family traveled to my grandparent’s house in Connecticut (my mom’s side of the family, and of English / French descent) to enjoy Easter weekend. I have many happy memories of Easter at my grandparents as a small child, but had not been there for that particular holiday in a few years. We gathered together to celebrate Easter on Saturday, with the plan to have a quick breakfast and then drive home early on Sunday, to beat the stressful traffic rush. We had a wonderful meal on Saturday orchestrated by my mom, and retired that evening blissfully full. Because of this, I was prepared to face the fact that we might forego the typical Polish Easter traditions this year.
How silly to think that my father would let this tradition fall by the wayside! Little did I know that there were coolers full of pierogies, kielbasa, babka and all the garnishes carefully collected and packed, and then unpacked and cooked! It was suddenly Polish Easter, right there in my grandparent’s house in Connecticut. Even though it was not the typical way they would have done Easter brunch in their house, they thoroughly enjoyed it, and for me, it completed the experience of the holiday. It really was Easter, and we were all together, enjoying a quintessentially American experience – the blending of cultures over a table of delicious foods surrounded by people you love. There is no better feeling in the world.