April 20, 2015 § 1 Comment
April 19, 2015 § 6 Comments
Since Day 10 of Writing 101 is about food tradition–I am obligated to write about pierogi. (By the way, I recently learned that pierogi is plural, you never add an S on the end of it).
It’s a Polish tradition! For Christmas and Easter every year, my family makes (and eats) Pierogi. Many people have never heard of this delectable doughy treat, but I have grown up with these little guys and can’t imagine Christmas or Easter without them. We typically make two types: Sauerkraut and Potato with Cheese (farmers cheese). One time I made tuna pierogi. Yes, tuna. Nobody cared for them. I admit, I forgot to season the canned tuna I used. I was trying to be creative but they were pretty dry and tasteless—only my dad complimented them and actually ate a couple. Never again. Lesson learned: never change tradition.
Typically, a few dozen are made the week prior to the holiday and they are boiled and then frantically fried in butter just moments prior to sitting down to dinner. The frying process gets them just a little browned and a little crispy. You don’t HAVE to fry them, but it does add a little crunch and a few calories which is always nice.
Making them is fun, especially if you have a wacky sister to help and an understanding, patient mom to guide you. The night before the pierogi manufacturing event, you make the filling (otherwise the process takes TOO long and you will get crabby and start fighting with your kitchen mates). I know this.
Rolling the dough correctly is important—you must get the dough to be just the right thickness (or thinness) and then you punch out a bunch of circles with a little template, like maybe a tuna can (a clean one of course). The most fun is plopping a small wad of filling in the center of the dough circle, folding the dough in half and pinching the edges to close and seal. Then you laugh, laugh, laugh at how peculiar shaped you managed to make the finished sealed pierogi and hope you sealed it well enough so that the filling doesn’t come spewing out in the boiling process. (Mine tend to look a bit like albino stingrays.) If you want to be a little fancy, you can press a fork along the edge to seal it around the perimeter which gives added reinforcement and a cute decorative edge treatment. My mummy doesn’t like the fork thing, but I do.
I am envious of the pierogi creators that can make their pierogi all look the same — very neat and uniform looking. I have always thought ours come out a bit “disheveled.” No two alike. Maybe that’s ok.
PLEASE add a comment if you make pierogi and can offer any helpful hints or advice, or if you just like to eat them. I also am looking for ideas on how to differentiate the pierogi so you know which flavor is which, so you don’t have to keep them separated at all times. Does anyone do this by forming a unique decorative edge treatment for each kind?
April 19, 2015 § 2 Comments
I watch my husband as he dines at our favorite cafe. He doesn’t see me. The woman sitting across from him is young—lemon-yellow wild curls, high cheek bones. Who is she? He’s wearing that smile. The smile I gave him the day we met. My heart is pummeling my chest cavity. I can’t breathe.
I fall into a chair at an unclean table. I glance down at the newspaper someone left behind— a tiny face smiles back. It’s me. When did I die? Shaking, I look back at Steve knowing it’s the last time. That smile. My God, that smile.
April 16, 2015 § 7 Comments
“I was really hoping you wouldn’t accept the job, Darlene. It’s so far away–I hate the thought of being that far from you.” Eric gingerly took her hand and they continue walking. It was a beautiful fall day in Michigan, the park showing off an assortment of trees. Massive trees wearing vivid costumes of red and orange. The breeze was active enough to cause Darlene’s bangs to separate from her forehead. She anxiously kept pulling them back in place.
“It’s time for me to move on, Eric.”
He felt tears producing in his eyes. He hated that weakness. Why was he born with this sensitivity that most men could suppress. He kept his head down, fixating on the weeds in the path. This park was his favorite place and that’s why he loved to bring Darlene here. It represented all he loved about Michigan–the trees, the water, the peacefulness.
He wanted to leave Theresa, his wife of twenty years. He just didn’t know how to go about it. They were so young when they married. They started dating as seniors in high school and their courtship continued at the University of Michigan. Now two decades have passed– they have two teenage daughters, a german shepherd and a four-bedroom colonial in the suburbs. What more could he want? He wanted Darlene. He didn’t mean to find her, she just showed up one day. At work.
Suppressing the tears caused the back of his throat to twist up and he could no longer speak or swallow. He kept walking along quietly just as he has done for the past 20 years.
“My God I can’t wait to be back in Phoenix.” thought Darlene. Eric didn’t seem to want to talk. Not knowing anybody in Michigan, it was nice to have him to keep her company even if it was just one day a week. The cold breeze in the park was causing her hair to blow around, she hated that. She hated everything about Michigan.Two years was enough.
The elderly lady on the bench hardly looked at the couple as they approached. She fumbled with the makings of a red sweater between two knitting needles, mumbling to herself quietly. As Eric and Darlene passed, she watched their silhouettes diminish into tiny doll size figures. She had been at the park for quite a while, it was time to leave. With a quick tug, she pulled the ratty gray wig from her head, stuffing it in her tote bag, along with the red knitted mess. “I knew he was having an affair,” Theresa said in a growling demonic voice even she didn’t recognize.
April 15, 2015 § 1 Comment
A touching read from another blogger, John Zokovitch. John’s blog is called Stories in the Struggle.
He was sitting in his wheelchair, slumped over a little to his right, the cheap 305 cigar held loosely between two callused fingers in his good hand. His eyes were a little vacant, shadowed, gone looking somewhere in the past though they were aimed as if in penetrating study of the cinder block wall a few feet in front of him. His faced was framed by the same patchy beard I remembered from the time when I first met him.
As I walk toward him, wondering if he’ll remember me, his shoulder drops in my direction, changing the angle of his body just enough so that he’s more square to the hallway from which I make my approach.
I’m closer now and I see his eyes are slightly rheumy and out of focus; they search for my face from his place below. And then recognition kicks in. A clarity awakens in…
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April 13, 2015 § 11 Comments
Chet was my grandfather without actually being a grandfather. He was there for every event in my life. His generosity was evident at birthdays, Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day. He and my grandmother loaded up the car and took us on summer excursions. Many miles were consumed seeking out motels that met my grandmother’s requirements for “clean” and Chet’s determination that the place must have a swimming pool. I loved to swim—he taught me how to dive during one of those trips.
He took us to amusements parks, circuses, museums and baseball games. We even descended beneath the city to visit the dark and creepy yet intriguing world of a working salt mine. I still clearly remember the salty smell and the cave-like surroundings. Walls composed of sparkly salt, eerie yet beautiful at the same time.
We were the only kids in the neighborhood to have a little roller coaster in our backyard thanks to Chet. Friends started showing up in my backyard that I hardly knew. You know the type —they only come around when you have something they want.
As I reflect back, it was not the monetary generosity that mattered most, although that was always evident. It was a deeper, richer generosity. Don Rickles once said the key to a happy life is to surround yourself with people who care. Chet cared. Simple as that. My whole family cared.
Chet passed away twenty-some years ago at age 69 from heart issues that troubled him for several years of his life. Heart issues that I am sure medical science could intervene with easily these days thanks to coronary stents and the plethora of pharmaceuticals that are catapulted at us now. But that wasn’t meant to be for him.
He’d probably be a little embarrassed to be written about. He never did anything extraordinary, he never married, never had children. He quietly fought in WWII and like all the veterans of that war, didn’t expect much for his efforts there and rarely spoke about it.
I found this old photo of him and written on the back in his own writing were the words, “A little dog I met at the Beach, 9-24-42.” I love this photo. It represents what this man was all about—a quiet, unassuming guy, always there if you needed him. A man who wouldn’t hesitate to pick you up, smile, lend a hand, expecting nothing in return.
I wish he could be here now to see what became of us and I wish I had an opportunity to tell him he mattered.
Chet, thank you for being there, for taking part. I think of you often.
April 9, 2015 § 3 Comments
“It’s not what you think, really, it’s not what you think,” he said uncomfortably as I looked him directly in the eye. The woman sitting across from Steve at the tiny dining table was dressed young. She was young. At least fifteen years younger than my husband. Beautiful, heavily-rimmed dark eyes and black silky hair, perfect chicklet white teeth. At first I ignored her, maybe if I don’t acknowledge her she really won’t be there. I felt her youthful eyes looking at me, looking at him, back at me, not knowing what to do or say. My heart is pounding rapidly as if it is attempting to escape from my chest cavity. I can’t breathe very well. I just stand there unable to move.
And then I notice it. The newspaper. It’s on the next table turned to a very small article. I see my photo…