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Polish Ebonics: kroosh-cheek-y

While there are a lot of odd things that come along with the holidays, there are also some treasured traditions. If you’re a member of my big Polish family, first of all, thank you for admitting it. Second, you know that the holiday season brings with it not only Christmas music, kielbasa and kapusta and a few hours of dysfunctional family members drinking “slushies” trying to act functional, but also chrusciki.

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Polish Ebonics: This is pronounced “kroosh-cheek-y.” 

My grandma has over 60 grandkids and great-grandkids, but there are only an elf-sized handful of us that actually had the pleasure of making these with her when we were growing up. (I take great pride in being one of the few.) While she hasn’t been able to make them for quite a few years, my mom and I still roll and fry them out every Christmas.

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Just like Thanksgiving was different for us this year, Christmas will be too. There will be no big family gathering as we’ve done throughout the years. But part of growing up is accepting that traditions can evolve and change shape just as easily as the people who are so attached to them and the memories created.

For me, I will always remember making chrusciki with my grandma in her kitchen when I needed a stool to reach the counter and could only make the bows. Then came the year that she couldn’t stand that long in the kitchen and left me in charge of the dough—she would fry and yell at my grandpa for “testing” too many of them.

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It wasn’t long before that became a bit too much and mom took over that step, with a widowed gram yelling her helpful two-cents from her recliner in the living room during “The Wheel” or “Jeopardy.” Eventually we started making them at our house and bringing them over, and this year, we will be bringing them to her room at St. Ann’s.

But the truth is that while they’re delicious, they’re not my favorite holiday treat. For that matter, they’re not my mom’s favorite holiday treat either. But we roll and fry and cover the counter with powdered sugar because we know that every year there is a woman who looks forward to eating a couple with a cup of tea—just as she’s done since she needed a stool to reach the counter helping her mom so many years ago.

So even if she only eats one and enjoys that one—and the memories it brings—it makes entirely worthwhile.

Well, that and the fact that every time she tells me they taste perfect—just like hers—I feel as if I’ve been able to give her a little (powdered sugared) piece of the happiness she’s brought me.

Chrusciki

I have to admit that I’m a bit protective of this tradition, as it is often replicated in a fashion not as favorable as the real thing.

There are a couple tricks, the first being that the water has to be ice cold. Second—and most important—it you MUST roll each and every strip out paper thin. This means rolling it out once, cutting it into strips, rolling each individual strip, cutting them into sections, rolling each section out and then finally making the slits and pulling them through.

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If it’s not thin, it’s crap.

No, this is not a political statement, but rather the most important thing to remember. Too many people make them thick, which in turn makes them heavy and chewy—not what we’re going for. They should end up delicate and light.

There aren’t a lot of ingredients—only seven in fact—and they’re not that complicated to assemble. But to make them traditionally is truly a labor of love—and totally worth it.

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From gram’s pen to our rolling pin.

4 c. flour

1/2 t. salt

3 t. baking powder

1 stick of butter (softened)

3 egg yolks

3/4-1 c. ice cold water

powdered sugar

Sift dry ingredients and add cut butter.

Add beaten egg yolks in center.

Gradually add in water and work mixture with your hands and a fork—yes, only your hands and a fork—until the sides of the bowl are free of dough. The amount of water needed may vary from batch to batch.

Form handful-sized balls of dough and roll out on floured surface with rolling pin. Cut into long, thin strips and roll each until paper thin.

Cut each strip into 3-4 inch segments, slit each segment and pull top through middle to form a bow-tie of sorts.

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After all dough is rolled and twisted (should take around 2 hours if done correctly,) fry in peanut oil, drain on paper towel, transfer to large bowl and sprinkle with large amounts of powdered sugar.

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At this point I’m covered in powdered sugar and stink like peanut oil, meaning I may pull out a couple other things I learned to say from my grandma, namely “Jezusa I Maryi” and “gouvna” at different decibel levels. Ahh…traditions.

So although I have no idea how to say it despite her many (failed) attempts to teach me—Wesolych Swiat!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

What’s a traditional family recipe that you make every year, even if you don’t really enjoy eating it yourself?

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Hugs and Kisses

When I was little, I was really close to my grandpa and dispensed hugs freely to him upon request. However, I had a thing with kisses. As much as I loved him, I always gave him the cheek and quickly wiped away any contact that was made. He always made a big deal if I actually kissed him and joked about it until the day he died.

Now truth be told, my grandpa was one of the greatest men ever.  While I realize no one likes wet kisses, we also used to joke that we could put his shirt in the fridge and serve it to him for dinner due to the amount of leftovers spilled down the front. Not appealing.

But the real reason?

When I was little I thought you could get pregnant from kissing, so I avoided it at all costs with anyone of the male species—especially those with kielbasa on their chin. Now I am still a hugger much more than a kisser, but it’s because I am totally OCD and have intimacy issues.

Even when it comes to chocolate, on most occasions I still prefer the Hug to the Kiss—of the Hershey variety, of course. So while I’ve presented this “recipe”—it’s so easy I hesitate to call it that—before, I recently made a fall-themed batch and thought I would reintroduce it to the blog so you remember to make it too.

There are many variations that can be created with any kind of Hershey Kisses/Hugs, and it’s also fun to use a Rolo and a pecan or walnut for a turtle version. However, I still defer to the Hug—I like the stripes and it looks cool.

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All you need are three ingredients: pretzels, M & Ms and Hershey Hugs.

1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees, line a baking sheet with foil and cover the foil with plain mini pretzels (either the normal twisty kind or circles).

pretzel22. Unwrap the hugs, and then place a hug in the center of each pretzel.

3. Stick the pan in the oven for only around four minutes (depending on the oven). You want to make sure the hugs get melty, but don’t want them to burn (hence the low heat).

4. As soon as you have meltage (technical terms), remove the pan from oven and immediately place an M&M in the center of each melty hug/pretzel hybrid.

pretzel3 5. Either cool on the counter for a couple hours, or if you have no patience, stick the pan in the fridge for an hour or so.

pretzel46. If you’re feeling so inclined, fill some little fall baggies with the treats, pair them with the turkeys you made a couple weeks ago and take a totally crappy picture of them to put on your blog.

If that doesn’t impress your friends…well, I wouldn’t be surprised. However, throw a few fun facts into the conversation and you’re good-to-go.

  • “Kisses” were first introduced in 1907 and are thought to be named for the sound or motion of the chocolate being deposited during manufacturing.
  • “Hugs” got their name because they appear to be little “Kisses” being hugged by white chocolate.
  • Hershey makes more than 80 million Hershey’s Kisses brand chocolates every day in its chocolate factories in Hershey and Virginia.
  • It would take around 95 Hershey Kisses to equal one pound of chocolate.

Considering my last post and question were about the dentist, I find it only fitting to ask you about your favorite sugary Hershey Kiss flavor today.

There are a million varieties now—caramel, almond, even candy corn—what do you prefer?

Are you a hugger or a kisser?

Handwritten Hugs

As a society, we are inundated with e-options for everything from communication, dating and shopping to flight check-ins, video conferencing and banking. We blog, we Skype (well, I don’t), we forward and delete.

And while some of these options have made life infinitely easier, it’s hard to ignore the fact that something personal seems to have been lost along the way in cyberspace. Where I feel it the most is with correspondence, be it a handwritten thank you, an event invitation or a simple birthday card sent every year.

Maybe it’s because growing up, one of the things I looked forward to most was a card that my grandpa sent me once a week—via snail mail. We were super close and although they spent winters in Florida, when back in Michigan the cards still came.

They were nothing elaborate; they didn’t play music or feature textured, sparkly material or poetic prose. (In fact, most were bought in a box of bulk from the flea market and I received the same card about twice a month.) But what they did have was my grandpa’s handwritten note, scrawled out every week above his shaky signature until well into his 80s.

The message got shorter and harder to read, but really got straight to the point—“Love you, Papa”—and each envelope was sealed with an (extremely random) sticker.

Even in my manic cleaning sprees and compulsion to minimalize, I kept every single one of them.

He died almost eight years ago, so he never really knew me when I was “sick.” Now understand that this man loved his food. We used to joke that we could put his shirt in the fridge and he could eat it for lunch (not the neatest eater, mind you), and I wouldn’t expect him to understand. But I know that today he would be worried—sick with worry—and that kind of makes me sad, even ashamed.

I know my family worries now, but I think they’ve come to accept “this” as me the same way I’ve come to accept that my mom smokes, that my grandma will always refer to African Americans as “the blacks” and that my family basically regards meat, potatoes and dessert as the three basic food groups.

I’ve come to accept that I can’t change others and I can’t change for others—I can only take these steps myself, for myself.  As Mahatma Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Pretty smart dude.

I got off on a bit of a rant, so back to the cards and whatnot.  I’m both addicted to and tired of technology. I don’t want to “Tweet,” I don’t want to get my magazines in digital versions and I don’t want to have to have an iPhone to communicate with everyone in the freaking world. Even my job is changing, and I don’t like it.

I don’t need an app for that, thank you—I am blissfully unaware for now.

Anyway, my grandpa obviously didn’t have e-mail—hell, he called them “flax machines”—but if he had, I’m sure I wouldn’t still have those messages today. I wouldn’t have the envelopes with stickers or the shaky signature. Even today, getting a handwritten note or invitation seems so much more personal to me, so much more…human.

HUGS!

However, there are obviously things that I love about technology, and one of them is that I can just insert this link and tell you that I whipped up a double batch of my little hug treats.

treats2 This time, we’re going with an Easter theme. While I used Hugs, I’ll add that you can switch it up for all kinds of deliciousness—I’ve done Rolos and pecans for a turtle variety, different flavored Kisses, etc.—and all were huge hits.

bags I plan on including a handwritten note on each treat bag and leaving them on the desks of my coworkers tomorrow.  They can’t be deleted, they can’t be ignored and they may just serve as a delicious little reminder that emoticons are not human—Hugs are.

(Probably not, as they’ll most likely just eat them and get chocolate on their iPhones, later Tweeting about how they got chocolate on their iPhones, but whatever.)

Do you still send the occasional handwritten card or note, or have you become completely reliant on the availability of technology for communication?

or

Best thing you ate this weekend?