JEFF TIEDEMAN COLUMN: Polish your palateI’m not a very fussy eater. There are very few foods that I’ll pass on trying at least once. Even as a child, I gave everything one shot.
By: Jeff Tiedeman, Grand Forks Herald
I’m not a very fussy eater. There are very few foods that I’ll pass on trying at least once. Even as a child, I gave everything one shot.
Of course, I was like a lot of other kids. If it I didn’t taste good the initial time, there was no way it was going to touch my lips again — no matter how much cajoling from my parents.
The lima beans that were in the canned vegetable soup Mom used in her hamburger hotdish are a good example. While I loved her casserole, the legumes more commonly known as butter beans always got pushed off to the side of my plate.
That’s ditto for scalloped potatoes. In fact, I couldn’t even look at them after tasting and smelling them for the first time.
How things have changed. Today, I’ll gladly eat scalloped spuds, and any kind of bean is my friend.
And that brings me to Fourth Annual Polish Food Fest on Saturday in Minto, N.D. The festival is being held for the first time in the smoke-free Minto Community Center, which opened last July. (Previously, it was in the Harvey Avenue Saloon and the adjacent Minto Cafe.)
When I was talking to Sandy Schuster about the upcoming event, she told me the proud tradition of food among Poles and some of the goodies that will be served at the Polish National Alliance-sponsored celebration, a fundraiser for the group’s 50-member dance troupe. (The kids will perform three times at the fest, complete with authentic costumes from Poland.)
For those of you unfamiliar with Polish cuisine, it is a mixture of Slavic and Germanic culinary traditions. It is rich in meat, especially chicken and pork and winter vegetables (cabbage in the dish bigos), and spices, as well as different kinds of noodles, the most notable of which are the pierogi, dough filled with almost any ingredient that you can think of.
One of the foods that will be served is czarnina (also spelled czernina), a Polish soup made of duck blood and clear poultry broth.
As soon as Sandy — the PNA District 14 commissioner — started to describe it, I recalled a concoction my dad made when I was a young boy, which he called “blood soup.” (Actually, he called it by a German name, which sounded similar to svartsoppa, a goose blood soup that is popular in the southernmost province of Sweden, just across the Baltic Sea from where my German ancestors named Voelz lived.)
I tried Dad’s soup only once, and that was enough. Coincidentally, years later, Dan Letnes, a Grand Forks attorney who just died this past year, told me about having some of the blood soup my dad’s mom had made when he was a teenager. Dan’s brother, Lawrence, who developed Letnes Addition in Grand Forks, was married to one of my dad’s sisters, Lillie.
The festival also will feature tons of other homemade Polish food, including pierogies (cheese and potato or plain cheese), kielbasa (sausage), golabki (cabbage rolls), kapusta (sauerkraut and pork ribs), paczki (deep-fried donuts) and desserts such as Mountain Cake.
The kielbasa, 200 pounds of it, was made this past Saturday by Sandy’s husband, Roger (the festival’s chairman), and some of his friends.
I can’t wait to sample the sausage and some of the other food at the festival. But I might have to pass on the czarnina.
Tiedeman is food editor at the Herald. Reach him at 780-1136 or toll-free at (800) 477-6572, or e-mail at email@example.com.