Saturday, April 03, 2010

In Which I Am Mistaken for a Pole "In the Know"

Living in the Outer Richmond, I have the incredible fortune of being within walking distance of stores and restaurants that offer every ethnic food I can imagine. This is a far cry from Wilmington, Del., which for the longest time had just one Thai restaurant.

So, after deciding to throw a Polish Easter feast for the brave souls who will oblige me, I set out today for the Polish deli and Russian bakery.

There was a line at the deli, so I queued up and began eyeing the shelves to see what I needed to pick up by the time I reached the counter to order the kielbasa. The black currant juice caught my eye. Thinking how tasty it would be in vodka, I picked up a carton.

Most of the people in line looked like me: hardy souls with big noses, round faces, light eyes. I have always wanted to visit Warsaw, from whence my DNA comes, with the fantasy that it would be a city full of people who looked totally familiar. Then a couple who were clearly not Polish stepped in and took their place behind me.

Judging from their conversation, somehow they had gotten themselves into the position (appropriately, a "pickle" ha ha) of providing a Polish Easter dinner, and they weren't quite sure what all that entailed. First, the woman worried they wouldn't be able to converse in Polish like the customers in front of us. Then she noticed the carton I was holding. She said to her partner, "Oh that looks good, let's get some of that."

I spied a jar of red cabbage and apples and, recalling a recipe I'd seen that I would like to include in my dinner but was too lazy to make, picked it up. Soon, she had scooped up a jar of her own.

When I got to the counter and ordered my polish sausage, they were debating which sausage to get. "Well, SHE got the polish sausage," the woman said.

I spread my wares on the counter, threw in a babka and some liverwurst as if I knew what I was doing, and handed over my cash.

Then I picked up my booty and made my way back to my little NWZCHIK-mobile with the Polish decal on the bumper -- for all this couple knew, on my way to cook up yet another dinner of Polish fare, thinking that they would appear appropriately Polish with their copycat purchases of a Delaware girl who only looks Polish, and doesn't know much about anything.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Happy Dyngus Day! Or, Poles Know How to Party


Avid Girl readers (and if this is you, you deserve a medal for putting up with my crap -- I'll order you one later from my Polish catalog. How about the breastfeeding Virgin Mary?) may recall this post from August 2008, in which I cracked wise about the, well, Polish-ness of a certain catalog catering to a certain Eastern European bent.

It turns out -- and I can say this, as I am a Pole to my core -- there's a reason there are so many Polack jokes. There's just so damn much material. In retrospect, it's fitting that my Polish father used to say, "I always wanted to be a stand-up comedian. Or an undertaker."

We see the humor in life, always laugh at ourselves -- and at the same time know that no one's getting out of here alive.

My college roommate V (a Slovak) and I several years ago hosted an Eastern European Easter at my old apartment in Noe Valley. It was a smash hit, and so when she mentioned having Easter dinner at my place this year (she's redoing her kitchen), I thought: Redux! Hence, the research on Polish traditions.

First, I was tickled to come across the idea of "Bitter Lamentations." I mean, that basically is the subtitle for all our family dinners growing up.

But I was quickly diverted by an even juicier tradition that occurs the day after Easter: Smingus-Dyngus [SHMEE-goos DING-goos], or "Wet Monday," in which people douse each other with water in a pseudo-courting ritual that also somehow involves ... pussywillows?

Turns out the biggest U.S. celebration of Dyngus Day is in Buffalo, N.Y. It sounds like a freaking hoot.

My colleague "Fishbone," always quick on the uptake, immediately suggested a T-shirt to commemorate the dousing. Turns out, Polart already beat us to it. "Wetter is Better," it proclaims ... in water-based ink.

Do you SEE why I love this catalog so much?

(It also explains why in fourth grade I got a water pistol in my Easter basket. It didn't work and had to be exchanged -- a travesty I lamented bitterly.)