Tuesday, March 16, 2010

St. Joseph's Table

Happy Day Before St. Patrick's Day, and let's throw a little curveball into the celebration, shall we?

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.


  1. I've never heard of the St Joseph's Day feast! But the pic of those sausages is making me drool. I have a Polish deli near me that I've always wanted to check out. I'm going for some Golabki!

  2. St. Joseph's Day is a new one to me too. I enjoy finding out new holidays, especially ones celebrated with food.

  3. When I was a child and we visited a big city, it was always a treat to go to a Polish butcher and buy sausages to take home. One time, in NYC, we stashed the sausages in a tiny hotel room refrigerator while we were out and about. When we returned, we knew someone had been in the fridge because the room smelled so strongly of garlic! Sure enough, someone had helped him or herself to one of our sausages!

    Enjoy your golabki, Julie!

    ~ Krista

  4. This is completely new to me! Thanks for the tip about the Polish deli and the info on St. Joseph's Day!


  5. Hi Jenn - I can eat Polish sausage any time. And golabki has always been one of my favorites. As kids we only got it on special occasions... like St. Joseph's Day.

    Mason - Me too. Food is the best part of holiday, IMHO *grin*

    Krista - what a fun story! I'll bet the maid (or whoever it was) opened the fridge and couldn't resist the wonderful smell. That's so funny, but I'll be you had one very contented maid!

    Elizabeth - I wonder if St. Joseph's is a Chicago tradition. Maybe that's why no one has heard of it... My friend Maureen's birthday is March 19 (Hey, Maureen!!) and because she was taught by the Sisters of St. Joseph in grammar school, they never had school that day, so she always got her birthday off!

  6. My mom used to make golabki (we pronounced it gwump-kee, for some reason). As a kid, it seemed to me that the process took all day between blanching the cabbage, rolling and stuffing, then baking. The best part was always the eating!

  7. Goblaki - a gob of good fun. Happy St. Joseph's day, Julie. Enjoy your roots! ~Avery

  8. Janel - I've heard both galoomkee and gawoomkee, so I think we're on the same page. I seem to remember my dad telling me that "L"s in Polish are often pronounced "W." The best part is the eating, isn't it!

    Avery - Love that! LOL

  9. grew up in the FAR suburbs of Chicago, but even in Peoria, the Polish traditions and a great Polish bakery thrived

  10. I went to Catholic schools through 12 grades also. We never celebrated St. Patty's Day and to this day (many,many years later) I never decorate for it. I sure have plenty of decorations for every other occasion but just tend to skip March 17.

  11. I asked Chris about this and his kneejerk response was: Ask Grandma! Even as a South Side Chicago boy he seems to have missed out on this. Maybe because his family is Irish? His family is Catholic (mine wasn't), so I'm a little bit lost with Catholic traditions. However, this one sounds like something I might just have to adopt!

  12. Hiya Grill-man! Polish bakeries... mmm... I love Hoska bread. My absolute favorite snack. Problem is I can eat an entire loaf at one sitting.

    Elizabeth - I wonder why the Catholic schools didn't celebrate St. Pat's. Maybe they thought it would give one saint too much attention and slight the others. Hey, did you know that St. Clare is the patron saint of TV sets? Seriously. My brother and I like to joke that it's because she helps keep the picture "clare" (Sorry, getting punchy this afternoon. But the patron saint story is real.)

    Shel - I bet he didn't celebrate St. Joseph's, and I'll also bet he made it to more than one South Side Irish parade. It used to be a must-do if you were Irish and a southsider. As far as Catholic traditions, this St. Joseph's table was always a good one. Mmm....

  13. Hi, Julie - My apologies for commenting so late today - things have been a little crazy at chez Coyle! St. Joseph's Day is indeed a big holiday for the Italians (in Italy more so than in America). Zeppoles are one of the big foods to eat for us on that date. Some Italians fry them, some bake them. My mother baked hers and filled them with sweet custard -- like a cream puff. I loved hearing about your own traditions. I grew up in Western PA, where there is a large and lively Polish community, so I have a very soft spot for all things Polish, from polka music (I kid you not) to kielbasa and stuffed cabbages.

    Have a great week, whatever you're celebrating!

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