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I can’t believe I haven’t been here in so long. I can’t believe you’ve been coming back and checking in all this time. I can’t believe you haven’t given up on me. I bow to you in gratitude while applauding your clearly divine patience.

What’s been going on is delicious and note worthy. December was cooked into a gourmet month in its entirety. Suddenly my name was passed from mouth to mouth and I landed catering gigs and other fun events of sorts that kept me tied to my stove.

To keep the long story short, I’m attaching a few photos from the above mentioned moments of what later turned out to be a great success:

Beef skewers with sweet potato, grape and chimichurri sauce.

Coconut macaroons dipped in chocolate and polished for the party.

One of my brilliant helpers, Molly, working my Goat Cheese Tarts like she means it.

The #1 Crowd Pleaser: Beef Sliders w/ Balsamic Shallots

One bites: Cherry Tomatoes with Goat Cheese and Balsamic Glaze

Those are just the few snapshots I was able to take in the midst of the festivities. As soon as all the parties were over with, I was home in a bath tub filled with hot waters and enhanced with silky oils. The bath was mandatory if I were to get up early the following morning and pack for our trip East.

There, as in Texas, we entered virgin (to me) territories of disc golfing. Having successfully scattered all my discs all over the four adjacent fields, and that’s not what I were to aim for, I decided at last to let the others do the work while I laid in the grass to contemplate. Things seemed to look more interesting from that angle.

Three Musketeers of disc golfing at it.

Also, it was cold. Cold it was. Have I mentioned it was really, really cold out there?

The more so we enjoyed getting back into the warmth of the Harkins’ family’s house right in time for Christmas celebrations. Santa lost his marbles this year, clearly, as the mountain of presents that built up around the tree was making me dizzy just by looking at it. It could only be compared, I imagine, to the impression Uluru Mountain in Australia made on Oprah on her recent trip to Australia. All we wanted to do at the sight of our holy hill of presents was to close our eyes and meditate over its natural beauty.

Not for long. The children soon arrived and the mass destruction began. Neatly wrapped boxes proceeded to fly across the room, ribbons got ripped impatiently, and the wrapping paper torn into confetti.

Don’t be fooled by the innocent faces of those two little munchkins. They know their game, trust me.

It all stil looks neat and sane, doesn’t it? Just wait.

Heavy duty trash bags and oxygen masks were required to bring this war zone back to civilized conditions.

Then, suddenly I realized Cosmo went missing. How could he have not really? My instant reaction was to scream:

FREEZE! NOBODY MOVES. EMPTY THE TRASH BAG RIGHT NOW.

I did it with my inside voice, thank god. I had put that family through enough already with my shopping cart rides across their local Walmart, and then again by asking for vibrators at their local BEST BUY when the nice salesman offered to help us with any electronics we may be in need of. It’s a small town, by the way. I’ll say no more.

At the peak of my panic, I glanced just below my feet (the monkey in me climbed up the couch to take a few shots of the surrounding madness) and saw Cosmo tucked between the cushions… those of the sofa itself and those belonging to Jason’s mom…

I feel like I should end this ramble-o-thon right about now, but then it wouldn’t be complete without Paula Dean, would it?

The Queen of Southern Coking opened the Rose Bowl Parade herself, and Jason and I were there on the crisp morning of the New Year in Pasadena, and our asses we froze, and off the bucket list we took part taking in the thing forever. Alleluia.

Though we also snapped a big bucket of photos, I think I’ve exhausted my audience, my blog space, and my own self with this vomit of stories. Please, forgive my erratic behavior on these pages. I’m just a girl… who likes to cook and then write about it. I can’t control everything else that falls in between.

Happy New Year, Everybody. I’m excited to go through it with you again. Cheers!

Guys, I have a new fun project and I hope you can help me. I am looking for talented cooking women of certain age, basically raised before the Internet era, who learnt most or everything they know about making food from their mothers and grandmothers.

Take a look at this ad I posted on Facebook and think hard whether it’s YOU or someone you know that fits the bill:

* * *
  • Is your mother/aunt/grandma the best cook you know?
  • Do all your friends look for an excuse to come visit around mealtime, claiming they were “in the neighborhood by chance?”
  • Do your mama’s dishes take you back to her homeland, the country where she was born and raised?

* * *

If yes, I want to meet the women of your tribe.  I invite your Mama/Grandma/Aunt to try her food on me, to show me how she does it, and to let me write about her on ONE MORE BITE. Using my blog, I want to showcase the hidden culinary talents amongst us, with a special dose of love for those who, like myself, had crossed the ocean in search of a new home here in America.

There are ethnic restaurants all over Los Angeles. However, I’m looking for authenticity, hidden away from commerce, where culinary traditions have been cultivated for generations. Whether your Mama/Aunt grew up in Thailand, India, Vietnam, Lebanon, Camerún, Italy, or Sweden, I’m dying to learn the tricks she inherited from her mother and grandmother.

I know there are amazing and highly skilled cooks in Los Angeles, who, despite the lack of professional training, are experts in their native cuisine. Help me shine a spotlight on the hard-working women from your family or community, who express their love through food.

Don’t wait! Contact me ASAP within the comment section!

During our three-week vacation in Europe, we flew three times, made six separate trips by train, drove several cars, took a ride on a tram, subway and in a shuttle bus. We slept in countless beds and each one left a different imprint on our bodies. It turned out that sleeping around really is exciting and affects one’s libido (provided your bedroom is NOT adjacent to the one your conservative uncle sleeps in). The best part is that you can DO IT very successfully with the same partner throughout the journey! (That’s for those of you who duck when such words as FIDELITY and COMMITMENT are thrown at you.)

Since we were on the go for the most of the past twenty-one days, the little time we spent under a roof, any roof, we used up for hanging out with my family and friends, then here and there some tequila or pierogi-spiced hanky-panky , and most importantly–beauty sleep. The Internet got pushed back in time till the days I was about 14, meaning it didn’t exist. There was simply no time left for rants and scribbles. Hence, I have a whole lot of catching up to do here, and with no further ado I’ll bring up the foods we consumed while at the far eastern land.

I could summarize it pretty much with one word: MEAT. I’ll give you an example of our daily diet in Poland. On an average day we had cold cuts for breakfast, schabowe (tenderized, breaded and pan-fried pork chops) with cooked together carrots and potatoes (as seen below) for lunch…

 

Polish "schabowy" with my mother's "marchewka" (carrots and potatoes cooked together and finished with roux and fresh dill), on the side--my celery root salad.

 

…and pierogi (Polish dumplings) with meat for dinner.

 

Mom's legendary pierogi with ground meat.

 

There are hundreds of things one can fill their pierogi with. My mom is an exceptional cook and she spoiled us rotten with the meals she prepared. Not only she made three different kinds of pierogi for us (with meat, with blueberries, and so called Russian ones, filled with a mixture of mashed potatoes and country cheese, served with a dollop of sour cream and freshly ground pepper), but also she cooked various meats, and soups Jason has never tasted before like Botwinka. In a sense, it is red chard soup made on the base of a home-made chicken broth, later thickened with flour and finished with heavy cream.

I say, in a sense, as for us Polaks this is a soup made of very young beets, when their bulbs are not quite developed yet, and the leaves get to play the role of the guest of honor in the pot. The beet root, however, belongs to the same family and the same species as the red chard does. If you’re wondering if the soup is any good, let me tell you that that damn Botwinka had put my relationship with Jason in serious jeopardy for a moment. After the few spoonfuls of the dish Jason was on the verge of proposing to my mother, who thank goodness is off the market.

When we got out of my mother’s kitchen, and off we went to bother the rest of my family scattered across Poland, we were welcomed at their tables heavy with foods of all kinds. While certain elements varied from a house to a house, two were constant: sausage and vodka. Jason was tested heavily by various men from my tribe. He passed, but I’ll bet the very lace on my chest he’ll stay away from the Fire Water for many years to come.

Kielbasa, or a Polish sausage as you may know it, is omnipresent across my country. Even when we went to the countryside with Kinga, we were invited to a picnic with campfire and the whole nine yards. There was beer, bread, and sausage (duh!) baked on a stick over raw and bursting flames.

Due to the obvious meat overdose, upon our return to Los Angeles we decided to stay on a vegetarian diet for about a month just to keep things balanced in nature. I will miss though the bread we had for breakfast each morning, whether it was in my mama’s kitchen, or at the boutique hotel in Krakow. I tell ya, what we get here, in the US, has very little to do with the real stuff. Sniff, sniff… I won’t even mention the pastries we devoured in Paris! How is that even legal? How is that legal that bread can taste like homecoming and poetry at the same time? And then, how is that legal that such crap, also labeled as BREAD, is produced and sold across the United States of America, the place once called the most powerful country in the world?

I’ll go to my room now and cry in silence for a moment. Just give me a second to compose myself to continue with my food report.

When we got to Krakow, a Georgian restaurant was highly recommended to us, and guess what we ate there. More meat, you got it, served with a bouquet of fresh salads and a traditional Georgian sauce that tasted surprisingly close to the mixture of mayo and ketchup. Jason, like a total girl, chose chicken. I went all the way:

GIVE ME SOME STEAK, WOMAN! I roared across the room and banged on the table with my iron fist, still holding a silver fork. Then I gulped down a chalice full of red wine unmoved by its trails dripping down my fat and matted beard.

 

Georgian Chicken Kebab for Jason

 

 

Georgian Steak for Agi and her balls

 

Heavy and balky, filled with at least three full animals in our stomachs, we meandered the streets of the Old Town in Krakow, visiting Wawel (The Royal Castle), and the magnificent Church of Saint Mary. And then a miracle happened. Following the Polish guide Jason had armed himself with before the trip, we discovered a food gem, an oasis of green in the midst of that Sahara of meat, a true heaven for any veg junkie in the vicinity–we found a SALAD BAR!

The place was magical, and became our stable for the remaining days in the Old Capitol of Poland. The same things that were served on our plates also decorated the walls of the venue.

Tears crawl back into the corners of my eyes when I look at this. It’s a true Love Manifesto on a plate. Delicious. Crunchy. Raw. Versatile. Colorful. Meatless…ahh.

We have seen so many places, peaked into so many corners of Poland, tried every Polish snack and experienced every Polish stereotype (from vodka and sausage through the cold and grey, to the world famous hospitality, to the ubiquitous green and primal forests). However, not once have we stumbled upon a white bear strolling down the street.

Then we flew to Paris, but that’s a whole new story.

It’s been nearly a decade since I left Poland and started building my life here, in the United States of America. I lived in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., after which I moved to New York City where I spent almost five years. For the last forty-three months Los Angeles has been my home. I speak English on daily basis. I think English. I dream a combination of languages. My mother tongue, however, is Polish. You can hear it in every word that comes out of my mouth, even though you understand what I’m saying. I say ONION, you hear OHNIOHN. I say ALMOND, and you hear AHLMOHND. Sometimes you can read it between the lines on these pages just as easily.

I am Polish to the core despite the fact I chose a different place on the Earth to settle down, and soon to start a family.  Today I am heartbroken.

I woke up to the news of an immense tragedy that touched my home country hours earlier. The plane that carried the Polish president, Mr. Lech Kaczynski, his admirable wife, his advisors along with other Polish notables, crashed as it came in to land in Russia. No one onboard survived the tragedy. 97 people were killed in almost an instant.

At first, I couldn’t comprehend what I was hearing from my mom and what I was reading in the news. How is that possible???

Messages and phone calls poured in from my friends. Thank you all.

I tried to go about my day; there was laundry to be done, groceries to be purchased, the house to be cleaned. Jason left to do some rock climbing with a friend, a thrill he doesn’t get a chance to experience too often despite his Indiana Jones’ sentiments.

I kept my hands busy, but their sense of touch was asleep. Instead, all the feeling was stuffed inside my chest. That cage underneath my breast was the heaviest part of my body, but I did carry it around when stocking up our pantry, shifting wet clothes from a washing machine into a dryer, and when strolling down the sidewalk with Cosmo during our midday walk.

The images of the President and nearly one hundred people that surrounded him on the plane just minutes before it smashed on the ground kept intruding. I looked for comfort in my kitchen, the place where, while alone, I’m the happiest. I had a large turkey breast to roast that I could later slice and use for Jason’s lunch sandwiches. We finally had said NO to the processed, pre-sliced turkey breast one gets from a store, even the one dressed with a low-sodium label. Two red bell peppers jumped with joy knowing they would keep the turkey company in the oven. What a better sandwich combination than a freshly roasted slice of meat with roasted bell peppers enveloped by two crunchy toasts?

Then I found a bunch of leftover arugula, half wilted and sad. Or maybe it was just mirroring my own melancholy. I didn’t want to throw it away into the dumpster. Today’s headlines of all major news broadcasters flashed before my eyes. I hit up a cup of fruity extra virgin olive oil in a small pot. I thought of the families of the killed in the plane crash. I crashed and peeled two garlic cloves. What if it was somebody close to me on that plane? The President’s daughter has just lost both of her parents. The food processor was set on the counter and ready to work. I was oblivious to the greens that went inside. Garlic. Pinch of salt. Put the lid on. Click. Press the button. ON. There were no survivors. The feeling in my chest doubled in size like bread dough. It tripled. Warm oil slowly poured into the feeding tube. Warm, salty drops of my overwhelming sadness dripped into the arugula oil.

***

Tears well in my eyes as I type these words. Every few minutes I walk to the bathroom to wipe my face and to blow my nose so I can breathe between paragraphs. I would have never thought the death of the Polish president, the president who had not gotten my vote, would have caused such deep grief in me.

Mr. Lech Kaczynski - The President of Poland

He wasn’t alone. Polish military leaders, bishops, deputies, the president of the National Bank, they are all gone. They are… were my fellow Poles. Just like them, I took my first steps on the Polish ground, I mastered my language, I gained education. They were kids once, too. Just like them—I’m sure—I fell off the places I wasn’t supposed to climb and thus collected bruises and bumps on my knees and my head. I read the same books they did. I loved the same great Polish actors they admired. I grew up eating the same pierogi with sauerkraut and mushrooms they enjoyed most of their lives. And I shared their pride of Fryderyk Chopin, Maria Sklodowska-Curie, Mikolaj Kopernik, Wislawa Szymborska, Czeslaw Milosz and Henryk Sienkiewicz, et al.

I look around and everything seems the same as yesterday. Cosmo lounges by my side, as lazy and happy as can be. Our house is just as cozy and homey as ever. The aroma of roasted meat and vegetables wonders around the apartment and lurks into its every corner. The sun still shines through the windows covered with ubiquitous dust of this polluted city. The squirrels keep chasing each other on the brunches of trees outside our bedroom fighting over whatever nut or other delicacy they find. Our buddy hummingbird stops by and peeks into the kitchen, then BZZZZT and he’s gone. Everything seems unchanged. And yet I know it has.

Today I’m mourning. My tears, my heart, my prayers go out to my Polish Nation and the families of the deceased.

After a much needed and quite luxuriously uneventful weekend, I woke up to a Monday Writer’s Block. I don’t recall setting our Tivo to record that program.

In an effort to fulfill my promise to keep this blog fresh and sprouting with new ideas, I rewound the last 48 hours in my head looking for inspiration, and recited everything we DID NOT do:

– socialize

– play Bingo, Backgammon, Cranium, or Monopoly; not even Truth Or Dare

– go shark back riding

– stop global warming (instead we added to it with the multiple trips to local coffee shops)

– fly a monkey

– teach Cosmo to roll over, though he was so, so close

– get kidnapped by an Alien

– learn to speak Urdu, or Spanish (a tad more practical in Baja)

– buy a turkey, eat a turkey, nor visited Turkey

– make out with a dolphin

– solve a single math problem

– patch the four holes in our ceiling before the mice that I’m convinced live in the cracks of our building find out about the openings and decide to come visit

– climb Mount Everest, nor any other hill, not even a road hump.

None of that happened this past weekend.

Looking further for topics I could write about, I browsed through the thousands of photos we took over the last year and a half, to finally stop at the images of Jason’s nephews, Conor and Dylon, which I found highly inspiring… to procreate rather than to bluntly tap at a keyboard with two fingers.

It sounds like a whole lot of NOTHING. Let’s get one thing straight: an uneventful weekend does not mean a weekend free of events. (Wait, huh?) I did some squats around the coffee table during meal times in an attempt to tighten that rump. There was some folding and scrubbing going on as well as a whole lot of licking. Cosmo cleaned both of his front paws after a thorough and urgently needed bath (because what do the humans know about a good bath), while Jason licked his wounds after brutal couple of weeks at work.

One task I managed to complete was a Thanksgiving menu, and that was not a trivial accomplishment. I’m Polish, hence for me this holiday represents a day off, empty streets, and limited access to candy shops and movie theaters since everything closes early. Nonetheless, I wanted Jason to experience the same traditions he grew up with despite living away from his family – the turkey with stuffing and mashed potatoes with gravy, with a spoonful of cranberry sauce on a side and a wedge of pumpkin pie.

Therefore, I’ll be cooking up a storm and making him a Thanksgiving meal that will take him back the memory lane: pork loin with honey-mustard sauce and wrapped in bacon, mashed rutabaga with cauliflower and caramelized onions, blanched green beans with roasted garlic, and chocolate and orange brownie pie. I’ll be sure to snap a photo of each and every dish, and report back to you with recipes and about five extra pounds hung around my hips. I wish they would settle in my boobs instead. Sigh.

In the meantime, let’s keep it light and healthy. I’ll be BAHK with a fresh salad idea before the Turkey Bell rings.

 

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