I heard the Song of the Sweet & Sour Siren


2015080714322927It was a lunch portion of Jaëgerschnitzel,  but holding a fork-load of Sweet Sour Red Cabbage to my mouth, I had to admit that perhaps my Eastern European heritage is more a part of me than I might have wanted to admit.  And when we’re traveling I suspect the reason I keep seeking out Chinese restaurants has to do with the fact that I haven’t been able indulge my urges for spaëtzle and red cabbage and dumplings and sausages.  At least at a Chinese resto I can get some version of sweet sour tang, or hot and sour soup — or both.sirens

So you can say, I’ve been mesmerized by those sirens of yore who would lure sailors to their death with their intriguing, captivating song.  I’m powerless to resist.  When those aromas waft past my nose I’m lost!

borscht
borscht

Perhaps in the longterm search for a more permanent hangout I may never be satisfied if there aren’t German and Polish and Czech and Hungarian restaurants around.

When Kathryn was growing up the biggest issue we ever had over food happened to center on a bowl of beet soup.  Otherwise known as borscht, it’s a pretty basic part of Polish tradition and I wanted her to have at least a passing relationship to her roots.  We won’t go into how ugly that confrontation was — even today she’s not a fan of beets.

Gowumpki
gowumpki

Stuffed cabbage rolls, too, are part of what make me who I am.  It’s peasant food — actually — all of what I grew up with.  When we were feeling well healed there was the addition of CREAMbut the rest of the ingredients never changed very much.

Perhaps the most luxurious thing I remember from my youth was simple.  Pierogi — the Polish version of wantons — are also really peasant food.  Made with egg, smashed boiled potatoes and a minimum of flour — this is farm food.  It’s a staple.  It’s stick to the ribs food when stuffed with any number of savory ingredients:  meat, cheese, potatoes, potatoes & onions, etc..

pierogi

But my paternal grandmother had a brother living in South Haven MI.  On rare occasions she and her three boys would make the trip to visit my dad’s uncle and bring home peaches and grapes (he grew grapes for Welch’s) and sometimes even cherries.  And so it was that the entire family became addicted — and I mean ADDICTED to cherry pierogi served with clotted cream straight from my uncle’s cows.

I wasn’t even a glimmer in anyone’s eyes during those days, but the dish became that ONE THING that everyone in the family always wanted and only rarely ate.  After I came along the three sons would bring home cherries and we’d all gather in the kitchen and participate in the process of making pierogi together.  All the savoy ones, and then a few — a rare few — cherry pierogi.  And when we all sat down to eat, it was heaven to drizzle a little of that clotted cream on top and eat up every little bit — perhaps even licking the bowl clean!

Learning can sometimes be remembering

Part of our RV adventure goal was to learn — to continue learning — to grow in our retirement.  Well, if you’re like I am, sometimes we have to re-learn things we’ve forgotten.  Sometimes the things we have forgotten are about ourselves.  And I think that for me an appreciation of just how much that food is a part of me was not as front and center in my mind as it is in my life.

We won’t stop traveling just because we had a great plate of food.  But I’m sure this will skew how I look at where we are (at the moment) and where we want to go (in the future) differently.  I always look for ethnic restos when we travel.  We eat most of our meals at home, but we do go out once or twice a week on average.  I’ve don’e Ethiopian in Tucson and Italian in Seattle.  Georgian in San Diego and Indian in…. well, a few places.  We like to experiment with our food — perhaps partly to see what else we can find that’s as wonderful as what we grew up with.  Isn’t that the purpose of travel?  To have new experiences?casAqfe

Of course if we’re in a ‘small area’ — meaning that area might be large but the food options are few — we can be happy with what’s there for a while:  days, weeks, months.  But do think that I’ll always be yearning for the food of my childhood.

If there is one thing that frustrates me about RV’ing it’s the minuscule kitchen and limited cooking resources we have here.  We do well with what we have, but some things are more work in the coach than I want to expend.  I’m looking forward to having our convection oven again — pizza, and baking, and lots of good things that we haven’t been able to do for a couple months.

As you know we have chosenMax Burton  Induction hob to limit ourselves to the single burner induction burner that we bought when we started RV’ing.  I have been looking at an upgrade from that.  There are now some dual burner induction hobs.  They still use only the same amount of power — splitting 1800 watts between to burners dynamically.  true-induction-cooktop-double-burner-energy-efficientBut they would offer a little more flexibility than what I have now.  I’m not sure if I’ll make a change, but it’s back there in the back recesses of my mind.

AND…

When the time comes to settle down and get off the road we’ll be looking for taste treats for sure.

Thanks for stopping by.  I’ll talk with you tomorrow.

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14 Comments

  1. I’m with Katherine–no beets! In fact, I would not eat most of your favorite foods. I grew up eating bland foods and spicy ones still don’t agree with me. Picky, picky. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey, Linda, that’s the benefit of living in a world that’s big enough for everyone! Right? I can have mine, you can have yours and we’re both happy. 🙂

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  2. One of the things I was blessed with growing up was a step mother who loved to cook. In fact, she was a gourmet cook and was constantly trying out new worldly recipes particularly European.

    I love borscht, especially with a dollop of sour cream! Fresh beets pulled from the earth with butter are one of my favorites!

    For our birthdays, my mom would take the birthday girl to the restaurant of her choice,,,usually something foreign. Growing up in this style I have learned to love many different foods.

    Sadly, Rick grew up in a very limited culinary home which abhored most vegetables so he is a plain bland type of eater. So when I have cravings, and I do so about once a month. I treat myself to lunch. 😀

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    1. Mrs P,

      I don’t think there is any area of life that is more subject to the idea that ‘normal’ is what we grew up with than our food cravings! And for those of us who have been fortunate enough to have had parents and grand parents and parents’ friends who were either good cooks or gourmet cooks I think those experiences opened doors for the future enjoyment of life that are unparalleled.

      I was lucky to have good and varied ethnic food as a child and to this day I find myself seeking out new and different food experiences. No — I have not traveled in Asia, or Africa, and I’m not all that keen on bugs and such so I’m not sure how much I would ‘enjoy’ those experiences but within the realm of what has been available to me in the US, Canada, Europe and Australia if I can find something I haven’t tried before I usually do (try it, that is).

      It IS sad that Rick doesn’t share that interest. I love that the two of us can go someplace and try something new and each snitch a little off the other’s plate and double our excitement — and our enjoyment — and then have more to share with each other after we leave about the experience.

      But then I think for us (maybe not for others) the idea of sharing has been a touchstone for our entire marriage. She does, I do, we both do — there isn’t much in our life that one of us does alone — specially not now. When we were working because I had to travel there were times that the sharing had to be vicarious but still we tried.

      Anyway… that’s another great blessing about travel. 🙂

      > >

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      1. I do miss the sharing of food. My first husband and I had similar food tastes and he was willing to experiment as well and that part of our relationship was a good one.

        Fortunately Rick has other endearing qualities that I just seem incomplete without so partaking in food adventures alone or with a friends isn’t so bad. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      2. “endearing qualities” — Lovely. 🙂

        That’s the wonderful thing about marriages…. each and every one is so different, It’s like each couple makes their own individual peace between themselves. Back in the days when I was still marrying people I would always do 6 pre-ceremony sessions — not exactly ‘counseling’ but to make sure that they were committed to what they were about to do and I always walked away amazed at what brought them together in the first place (one guy used to see his future wife driving to work in the opposite direction each morning) and what it was the solidified them as a couple. 🙂

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    2. On quite another note, have you ever read much about our (national) treatment of our First Nations? This mobile life has had me regularly exposed to history about the American Indian, and what we did to them. I’m not sure what learning about them is ‘doing’ to me, but I find myself increasingly incensed. If you’re interested, take a look. here: http://www.ancient-wisdom.com/americanindians.htm

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      1. I will look a bit more. Funny you should bring that up as I was just having a conversation this afternoon with someone about this very thing! In fact we were discussing very generally the things that have been done under the guise of religion…looking at American history it was hard not to tie in the Native American atrocities.

        Philosophically, I relate very much with the Native American culture. My friend and I were pondering what life would be like in America if the European immigrants had just left them alone. Though we did admit that even the natives had conflicting and aggressive tribes, part of nature I guess.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Aggression is part of human nature it would seem — so common in so many cultures. But I have been horrified by our (collective) treatment of the First Nations — and it carries on to this day. Since we were a nation we have been continuously at war with someone for over 240 years. It’s insane.

        And I don’t buy that it is so much a ‘religious’ phenomenon. People have ‘used’ religion as excuses for their basest urges for millennia — greed and power are far easier to blame. but that’s just my opinion.

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      3. My religious reference was referring to things like the crusades. But, I absolutely agree that power and greed have corrupted many a good individual.

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  3. Your post brought me back in time to my youth when I helped my grandmother make all those dishes you described in her kitchen in Northeast Minneapolis MN during the early 50’s.

    Her pierogis were always sweet with ricotta type cheese or canned plums. We fried them in butter and sometimes sprinkled sugar on them for desert. In the fall she would go out to the countryside to pick mushrooms, string them with a needle and thread to dry and make a clear broth mushroom soup on winter Sundays.

    I still remember her stove, it was a combination wood and gas stove. Even though the house had radiators she would not set the heat very high and close off the rest of the house from the kitchen using the cook stove with wood for heat, spending most of her time in the kitchen during the winter.

    I too enjoy your blog, thank you for taking the time to write.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cletus,

      Thanks for your comments, and the ‘roses.’

      For our generation I think ‘heritage’ has a different meaning than for some. We lived in a time when there was more contact (I truly believe) between the generations. I know I personally spent a LOT of time with grandparents and with grandparents FRIENDS. I think there were more ethnic newcomers in the US at that point: children of immigrants who maybe knew the language and did or didn’t know if they wanted to pass that language on because of pressure to become Americans. And yet the food — especially the food — was retained and revelled in so much as the absence of some spices and delicacies may have been possible. We remember those things because they were a BIG part of our lives. Our extended family was together for EVERY holiday and some times that weren’t holidays. We all got along (mostly) and we enjoyed each others companionship because they all had a lot in common — even when children married outside their ethnicity, or religion, or even social level.

      Thanks for taking time to read, and to comment. I love hearing other people’s experiences too!

      Like

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