Friday, October 31, 2014

Visiting Cemeteries and Lights to be Lit

Today and tomorrow Poles will go to the cemeteries to light candles and pay their respects to those that have passed on. I always enjoyed this time of year when I lived in Poland. At first, being an American, it seemed sober, somber and sad. The sober part in the meaning of being fully aware that death is inevitable for everyone in this world. Americans flee from death, we hide from death, we dodge death at every close encounter. We don't like suffering and we don't like to be around suffering and certainly we are uncomfortable to be around those grieving for the dead.
In Poland, people grieve too. But at this time of year, they bravely celebrate this sober reality and in a way 'salute' those that have already suffered and gone on. The streets are full of corner florists and candles can be bought by the case. No matter what the weather, they go and they put flowers, candles, trinkets. They meet old friends and are introduced to new ones. The cemeteries glow with the promise of eternal light, some say that you can see the cemeteries from heaven above (satellite pictures). And, to add to the atmosphere of this celebration, on most cemetery grounds, a violinist softly plays in the background. I loved the grand tour in Warsaw ending at the most famous of cemeteries where celebrities and heroes remain. Crowds squeeze close together in front of the flames and hum to or hush to their children.
Children today in Poland have caught on to the way Americans celebrate Halloween, and they may be putting on a costume and going to a party this evening; but what sadly has not caught on here is the pilgrimage to the cemetery to 'salute' those that are already in heaven.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Life on the Eastern Border

Life on the eastern border was so simple, so pure. I ate like a king. Food was so organic, the USD would not know how to label it. The only products bought were flour, sugar, tea, coffee and candy. I remember eating pierogi as big as the palm of my hand, filled with fresh curd cheese. I dipped them into a large jar of homemade sour cream. I spread fresh baked bread with hand churned butter and drank milk from the cow, never getting sick or a rash or anything. The great aunt and uncle were simple gracious people, always hospitable - sincerely welcoming. When I stayed the night in their two room house, I slept like a baby enveloped by darkness that laid on me like a heavy quilt. The sleeping room was the living room, the main salon, the family room. It was in that room that both were waked and celebrated after their burial. Everything good happened there, birth, life and death. How I wish I could live like that!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Mushroom Hunting in Poland... the fungus amongus

At this time of year, I miss Poland very much. Why? Because, it is time to hunt for and pick mushrooms. It is time to walk through the colorful forest of Kabaty and hunt for those strange and beautiful mushrooms. Most edible and some not. The most incredible mushroom I found and ate was the Ox Tongue. It is called Oak Tongue in Polish. It grows out from the base of an oak tree. It is liver like, covered with dripping gooey slime like strawberry jelly. You slice it and fry it and it tastes like a filet of beef with lemon juice.
The other mushrooms that are prized are of the the Boletus Edulis and the Lepiota Procera. Both are excellent! Especially, the later 'Parasol Mushroom' fried in butter and made into a sandwich, laid between toasted bread is best. In central and eastern European countries this mushroom is usually prepared similarly to a cutlet. It is usually run through egg and breadcrumbs and then fried on a pan with some oil or butter. Then you served with bread as it makes a delicious meal during summer and fall. 
 A savory Slovak recipe is to bake caps stuffed with ground pork, oregano, and garlic. Italians and Austrians also serve the young, still spherical caps stuffed with seasoned minced beef, baked in the same manner as stuffed peppers.
This past weekend, though not in my beloved Poland, I walked the woods here with my beloved and we spotted mushrooms. There is something comforting walking through the woods, looking under deadwood and leaves... scouting for these delicious prizes. The air is filled with the smells of fungus, the sun is shining through the brightly colored leaves, the wind blows a coolness that says winter is coming.