Growing up in the Catholic School system, I wore uniforms every day for twelve years. My grammar school didn't make any exception for St. Patrick's Day, and except for the teachers decorating the bulletin boards in green, the day usually passed by without much notice. Without a drop of Irish in my blood and surrounded (insulated?) by Polish friends and family, St. Paddy's Day wasn't any big deal at all.
When I made it to high school, however, all that changed. We were allowed to decorate our uniforms on St. Paddy's day with shamrock pins, and I started to learn more about "South Side Irish" - which is a very, very big deal here in Chicago. Some of my friends' last names were Durcan, Corcoran, etc... you get the picture. Today my closest friend is a McLaughlin.
Still, my family didn't really celebrate much on March 17th. When I worked in Chicago's Loop, I checked out the green-dyed river, but I've never made it to either the Chicago St. Paddy's Day Parade, or the South Side Irish Parade (now canceled). This week is a different celebration for us - this week (March 19th) we celebrate St. Joseph's Day. Polish folks love St. Joseph's Day because it's another chance to enjoy traditional food - and lots of it.
I'll bet Cleo can tell you more, because Italians celebrate St. Joseph's as well. Probably even bigger than Polish folks do. There's always a St. Joseph's feast, where everyone brings a dish and we share our specialties and the company of each other until everybody rolls away from the table. I haven't participated in one of those events in a while, but they were always great.
Just like St. Paddy's - if St. Joseph's falls on a Friday during Lent, we can get "special dispensation" to eat meat. And we do (cough, cough... I haven't observed the no-eat-meat rule for a long time...)
Here around the Chicago area (yes, even in the suburbs!) you can find a Polish deli pretty easily. Rather than cook for my family this time - it's crunch time with another trip coming up and a couple of crazy deadlines - I'm shopping at a Polish deli for some of our food this week. One of the best things about a trip to their counter is that you'll find full meals there, ready to bring home, heat up, and enjoy.
The photo below is of one of my favorite foods from a St. Joseph's table - golabki (pron: ga-LOOM-kee) along with sausage and sauerkraut. Golabki, here doused in a thick tomato sauce, is a pork/beef/rice mixture rolled up in a cabbage leaf. It's fabulous. I can't make these at home - they just never turn out as well as the deli-purchased ones do.
So today, my hint is this: After you're finished celebrating on March 17th, check out your neighborhood. See if you can find a Polish deli, and treat yourself to some traditional treats like these above on March 19th. Dinner will be ready in a snap and I guarantee you'll head back for more.
Happy St. Patrick's and St. Joseph's Days!
By the way - I won't be here next week. Sheila Connolly will be guesting in my place. Please make her feel welcome!
Don't forget about Jenn's contest! We’re celebrating cupcakes! Our own Jenn McKinlay’s Sprinkle with Murder is now out in bookstores near you and it's making more than a sprinkle, it's making a huge splash! If you’d like to win cupcakes from Crumbs Bake Shop, send us an e-mail at MysteryLoversKitchen@gmail.com or leave a comment with your idea of the wackiest cupcake ingredients you can think of.