And So It Is…

26 Dec

There has been great sadness in my heart and it currently is playing with my mind.  October in one of my favorite months of the year because fall is in full effect, curling season is gearing up, the leaves are in full color, pumpkins, and yes, Halloween.  I had planned to write, as I do plan to write more, but the day came.  The day that I have been dreading for the last 10 years.  The day that my mom’s parents die.

Yes, I get death and I embrace death.  At time in my life I have been obsessed with death.  Although my dad’s parents have been passed for some time, I knew that with babcia and dziadzia it would feel different.  It did and it has been different.

Babcia’s birthday is in late September I called to wish her a happy birthday on the 22nd and that would be the last time I would talk to her.  It was not like when I spoke with Pranas and I heard death in his voice.  I did expect to see her in November instead she said I would be home in two weeks.  Her plan worked.  She suffered a horrible stroke a week after her birthday.  Then that was the beginning of the end.

It all began at dinner in the city with my mom.  We were finishing up our entrees when the phone call came in.  Complete silence from my mom and I heard that Babcia was in the hospital.  She has been there a lot but this was the first time stroke came in.  I kinda knew there that this was gong to be bad.  This was not like the other times when she fell or broke her arm or hip.  This was it.  My mom could not eat her dessert.  I squared up the bill and drove my mom back to her hotel. We both knew that babcia was going to die, it was just a matter of time. Mom had to get back home to see what was occurring, the hospital told her that they were keeping her alive until my mom got there. The hospital was keeping her alive and that she was on life-support.  I was numb and reflective.  So sad. So very sad. At least I was somewhat ready to deal with this. I have spent so much time with my grandparents. In many ways they helped shaped who I am. My sister and I spent a lot of time with them because they watched us when my parents worked. We were always with them.

The car ride home alone was flooded with tears and with memories, both good and bad. I was going to return to Detroit to see my babcia shortly. All I could think about was wooden spoons, baking cookies, rolling pierogi, whole wheat bread, secret smoking, Elvis, Fonzie, gardening, and painting the walls and floors. There was singing, chasing, mild violence at times, and always cooking. Things were either clean or dirty. Good or bad. A true world of dichotomy.

They both survived world war II and that influenced me. I grew up Polish and Catholic. I completely understand the role of a traditional polish catholic, especially pre war. It is tough. Theirs lives were so stressful and they needed to survive and they did.

I arrived back home in Detroit. I drove home, that was the fastest way for me. I went to the hospital to see her. My mom and sister were already there. Now my babcia was a tiny tiny lady with arthritic hands and super strong. She layer there in the bed unresponsive, unaware, but her body was alive. She was gone. In the two days before I got there we took her off life support and the vent. We thought she would crash and leave us. We thought she may wake up. If she did it would have been a miracle. She was a surviver of the holocaust, we don’t know if she was a Jew or a gypsy. She has no family and no one knows her secrets. The one thing I knew was that she was a fighter.

She survived for a week with no food or water. I think she trained herself to do this. It’s odd to say this, but people do strange things. I watched her breathe. I sat on her hospital bed. She was dying, she was already gone, but her body needed to leave. I spent so much time with this woman and now she was passing. All my Easters, Christmases, birthdays, and feast days were with her and now they are all done and all gone. Simply memories exist.

My family was ready for her to pass. I saw my dziadzia touch her hand, which I has never seen before. They never touched, never showed any affection. They hated each other and tolerated each other. Now their time was coming to an end. I guess this is is tough for a 98 man to get this, who wishes everyday that he was dead. He is the oldest and has been the whole time, now he has outlived all of his war friends and his family.

When babcia died, my mom was there. I was at home. I was ok with this. There was no talking she was unresponsive. We knew that her funeral would be at the same place that my dads parents were laid out at. We also knew where she would be buried.  When she was in her coffin I was fine, macabre has been a part of my life for a long time.  But, when it was time for me to leave.  I felt awful.  I knew I would never see her again.  I would never hear her voice or feel her punching my arm or telling me to go with god.  It was all gone now.  All I have left are my memories of her, cooking items, and her recipes.  Items that will last forever with me and will be passed on to others.

My babcia was a worker, a caregiver, a cook, a domestic tzar.  She constantly worked around the house.  Everything had to be clean.  Her hands were working women’s hands.  I know mine will look the same as hers.  She was the busiest women alive.  She hated onions and garlic.  Disliked soups, even if she did eat a bowl and hated wine even though we called it grape juice and she drank it.  Babcia liked Fonzie, the Sound of Music, Julie Andrews, and adored Pope John Paul II.  She was a survivor of the holocaust and as I said we have no idea if she was a true Pole or if she was a Jew or a Gypsy.  Now this allows me to makeup grand stories of her.  I have selected being a gypsy.  We have no idea who she is related to or other family members.  It was just us.  She went to the grave with the biggest secret which was her idenity.  She was who she was.  We loved her through all the good, the bad, and the crazy.

This is our first wigilia without her.  I am now responsible for the food.  I need to compile the recipes I know to retain our heritage and our babcia.  Now we visit her grave and celebrate her life.  We saw her on wigilia.  Plus, it saddened me that dziadzia was in the hospital (he is better now).  I can’t lose both, I can deal with one now. Let me have one more year with dziadiza.   I feel a bit off without her here, but she is happier now.  She will always be in our hearts and in our thoughts.

“Have no fear of moving into the unknown.
Simply step out fearlessly knowing that I am with you, therefore no harm can befall you; all is very, very well.
Do this in complete faith and confidence. ”
Pope John Paul II



5 Dec

So what do I do?  What should I do? Am I on track to where I want to be?

In many ways I think I am on track.  I have a plan.  I really do.  Looking at me from another direction I can see that I may not be on the path that I should be on.

Is my map upside down?

“Every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh, and therefore it is great to be misunderstood,” said Ralph Waldo Emerson.

There are days I am a chef, others where I am a writer, some I crush apples and make cider, I keep dreaming to be the athlete I am, and others I am hopelessly lost.  I want to get lost in my mind again.  Be muddled in the word and ideas that live in my mind.  Trying to live in the moment.  The moment is so exciting and scary at the same time.  I cannot escape the black and white of how I have developed my mind, but shades of grey are sneaking in the corners.  I was told by a friend I worry too much about what others think and that I allow drama to enter my life.  This could be true.  I see what my friend said.

Where will I go from here?  Take more calculated risks.  Smile more.  Try to be the person who i want to be.  I am full of life, of energy, and of love.  I strive to be me, whoever that is.  I do find out new things about myself everyday.  Although I know my tendencies, my weakness, and my strengths.  I can still see that naive girl in the mirror yearning to follow the white rabbit into the rabbit hole.  My life should be an adventure and I do want to leave a legacy.  Will I end up like a Plath or a Bronte sister?

I am a different kind of women.  Yes, I am a little bit of sugar and a little bit of spice.  As I am very rough and tumble with moments of grace thrown in there.  I am who I am.  Totally awkward, shy, too chatty at time, and yes overly physical.  Please don’t talk to me works for me.  I am a porcupine, but if you attempt to find out who I am; you can soon find out that I am the most loyal friend you can ever have.  Inside my cold, abrupt, edgy, mute exterior is a sweet, fun, and caring girl who will help one out at anytime.  If you cross me, beware.  My heart will break and you will lose my friendship, even if I am a fool in the first place to trust you.


Here is a list of some of the things I want to accomplish or do:

  1. Retake photography class
  2. Make my own movies again
  3. Get lost in Italy
  4. Taking dancing class (ballroom, tap, and modern)
  5. Return to Japan
  6. Write a cookbook
  7. Get a smoker
  8. Eat a sacher torte in Vienna
  9. Go on a canoe trip
  10. Make it to Worlds
  11. Be happy

Turkey Lurkey Menu 2011

22 Nov

Turkey Mise en Place by Donna Turner Ruhlman

Thanksgiving Menu 2011

Roast Cider Brined Turkey

Winter Fruit Stuffing

Brussels Sprouts and Pancetta

Green Bean Casserole

Homemade Gravy

Deadly Mashed Potatoes

Roasted & Sugared Acorn Squash

Classic Potato Leek Soup

Cranberry 2 Ways

Classic Spinach Salad

Pumpkin Tart

Goat Cheese Cheesecake with MichiganWindmill Cookies

Where Have I Been?

16 Nov

Sorry for the long delay in writing.  A lot of crazy things have occurred.  I mean A LOT!

I think I have mentioned that I got a new job some time back working with cider folks, then my job with Ruhlman, and my personal life.  The cider project is very interesting and dominates the majority of my day.  It can be anything from research, preparing platters of food, pressing apples, etc.  Ruhlman is pretty awesome, he has a new book and he came to the city to promote it.  I got to spend time with him and I want to spend more time working with him.  Personal life is going well and the curling has just started up.  So, I’m in a frenzy of driving, playing, working, eating, and sleeping.  You get used to the schedule.  I enjoy it.

There is so much I want to write about; food wise, dining out, life wise, and such.  But, I really need to buckle down and doo it.  I need to make the commitment to writing again.  I miss it.  I miss it a lot.  I miss the way the words flow through my mind to my fingers.  How ideas are woven together.  How a sentence can have  rhythm.  I miss my voice.  I miss my thoughts, the way i think, the puzzle peices in my head.

By far the biggest thing that happend in my time away was the passing of my babcia.  That will be my next big post.  I need to finish the story.  It is nearly there.  She is gone and I miss her more then she will ever know.

For now I leave you with a few quotes that I am loving at the moment.

“Good, better, best. Never let it rest. Until your good is better and your better is best.” Tim Duncan

“I learned never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.”  Ernest Hemingway

“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see? –The Mad Hatter
Louis Carroll

Identity Defined

21 Sep

“If you wake up at a different time, in a different place, could you wake up as a different person?”

–Chuck Palahniuk

In a time of having virtually anything, wanting everything, how can anyone be who they really are?  Each day seems to be a battle of trying to discover who one really is in the midst of the modern life we life in today.  I think I have always desired simplicity. In fact I have always wanted simplicity, but complexity seems to take over.  The best I can do is live for the moment, no matter what it maybe; a taste of a new apple, watching a hawk fly beside me in the car, or feeling a warm piece of bread in my hand.  They are snippets of sections of me.

Somehow I feel like I am at the crossroads of life again.  Reflecting on why I am the way I am.  I return to my middle school years and know why I am the way I am.  Categorized, boxed, compartmentalized, defined, and pigeonholed.  Yes, I feel trapped again.  Why not see me for who I am and what I can bring?  Why fear a free spirit and one who just is.  Please let me be.  I am stuck in samsara.  I may never get out.  Trapped by others definitions and by my own constant questioning.  All I can see if that I am going to take the same path, fall into the same trap, into my own depression.  Is it me or is it them?

Moving ahead I try to think that this time it is different.  My mind is muddled knowing that it is quite possible it is not.  Am I naive?  Am I just plain dumb?  Maybe just numb to all those around me.  I’m tired of others, I’m sick of definitions, and I am finished with haters.  Taking the first step to knowing what I want to be is the logical answer; but I feel like my map is out of date or I could just be blind.  What I think I am and who I know myself to be is something I am not quite sure of.  It is all of a bit of a puzzle, yet I have all the pieces and I do know how they all fit together.  I will get there.  When?  Soon.  How?  With a plan.  With who?  With me silly, with me.

I will then rediscover who I am and as quickly as I do; I will forget.  How ironic and how very me.  So aware and unaware at the same time.  A living dichotomy.  It is exciting and problematic at the same time.  Yet, I believe to get who I am.  That I am sour, bitter, an acquired taste to many, but I do have moments of popular normality. I am my own worst enemy more than anything else.  Then there are are times when I see the brilliance within me.  I wish I could be more balanced; if I was I would not be me.  I realize that it is time for me to be me and for those to try to accept it or I will move on like I always do.

“You are dangerous, cause you are honest.  You are dangerous, because you don’t know what you want.  You’re an accident waiting to happen.”

Tajin- What is this?

9 Sep

I needed to find some inspiration for some food writing and it was under my nose the entire time.  Well not the entire time, this product came to mind as I was slicing up a humongous watermelon.  I mean a big sucker.  So, today we are going to learn more about Tajin, a “classic seasoning”.  I never heard of this until some of my Mexican friend put it on cucumbers.  This magic red dust made items chili like, limey, and salty all at once.

Tajin as described on its webpage as “A delicious mix of 100% highest quality Mexican chilies with lime and salt; the perfect balance of spice and flavor.”  Indeed it is.   Many use it to enhance the flavor of fruit and it does this well, it adds as you see salt, spice, and some acid leaving the fruit you dust it on to be super sweet.  At the curling club the bar keeps spilt oranges with me and dust them with Tajin.  I also like to use this on mangos and melons.  It is delicious.

The company also makes Habanero Seasoning, Clásico Mild Snack Sauce, Chamoy Mild Sauce (has apricot), and Clásico Seasoning 25 Year Special Edition.  All these different dusts or sauces come in different sizes, so they are easy to travel with.  It is quite impressive.

Besides putting this seasoning on fruit you can also use it to season fresh salsa, line a margarita glass with it, season a michelada, season meats or seafood with it, heck use it on a ceviche, I bet it would taste great.  Maybe even some chocolate, popcorn, fresh chips, dips, etc…. The possibilities are endless.

Keep in mind once you purchase Tajin classico you should really try to use it as quickly as possible.  Once the humidity gets to it then it becomes rock solid.  This is a great seasoning really try to push yourself to give this product a try, if you can find it.  Once you taste it, you will fall in love with it.  I did!

Something About Me

2 Sep

Sitting here at my house and wondering what is in store for me in the coming months.  I have learned so much in the past 4 years and it never ceases to amaze me.  I just keep trucking.  I can’t stop.  I’m a runaway train.  Or something like that.  And everyday the thought crosses my mind that I made the right choice.  That I am doing what I am supposed to do. Am I?

It is all a process to me.  I know I will end up somewhere, for now I am having a great time and am working with amazing people.  It is a lot of hard work, but I get it done.  My desk is scattered with lists, papers, sticky notes, an ipad, and two computers.  Somehow this helps me, but really it is my mind.  Which seems to be a combination of right and left brained.  The left side normally wins, the right side still tries to pull through.

Stacks of cookbooks litter my bedroom, articles about cider float about, apples seem to be on my mind constantly, and I always have a comment or two to make on sausages. Why?  It is just me.  The refrigerator is covered in handwritten recipes that have either been made or are waiting to be made.  You can see cookies, sausages, cures, jams, and braises meez all on the cooler.  It is rather exciting.

The culinary world is so fascinating and changes constantly.  It keeps me on my toes it keeps my mind moving a million miles an hour.  And yes I talk to myself all the time.  Am I crazy?  Probably, but I am ok with that; especially when the thinking lobster hands come out.  This is how I keep myself busy.  I also think I am my own worst enemy.  Some of the best conversations I have had have been with myself.  Hah!

Lastly, there is a deep secret that grows inside me.  I don’t think it will ever die.  Hope.  I keep hope alive for something; a dream, a goal, a wish, just something.  I permit myself to try to reach that goal.  I hope everyday that I come a bit closer to reaching that goal.  I hope that one thing will work out for me.  I hope that the right things will take place.  Is it the right time?  Is it the place?  Am I ready?  I hope.

I see my dreams dance all around me.  Are they mocking me or reminding me?  At times I get frustrated that I keep hope alive and stupidity enters my mind, I feel silly for hoping.  I doubt my commitment to hope.  Why should I do it?  I stop.  I ponder.  Realizing that hope is in me.  Hope is a part of my essence.  No matter how much I can get angry at myself or frustrated that I believe in such dreams; it is hope that keeps me going.

Forever a dreamer.  Forever in the sky.  Living in the clouds above.  I will always aspire to be someone.  One day I will.  For now all I have is hope, a goofy smile, a bunch of recipes, loud hair, my imagination and my determination.  Things will work out and when they do another vision will enter my head and hope will win yet again.