Tuesday, January 27, 2015

No hope?

I know my way around Auschwitz. I have visited the camps many times. And every time I walked out of there, I thanked my lucky stars that I was there as a tourist, a guest, an historian.

I know my way around Auschwitz. I know it so well that once while visiting the camps with my parents, I was asked how much my tour cost and when the next tour began. I did not know as much as one gentleman walking with his wife who stopped, pointed, and said to her in Polish, “When I was here, there was a platform right there where the band played for all the new prisoners.”

For people who plan to visit Poland probably just the once, Auschwitz is usually at the top of their list of places to visit. I’ve been so many times because I don’t want to deny any friends or family their opportunity to visit such a monumental location in our recent history. I’ve been in the summer when it has been packed. I’ve been in the winter when it was just us and a few other souls knocking about. I’ve been there mixed in with tours of Jewish visitors from Israel and with school trips from Germany. I’ve been there with my husband, with my parents, with my friends.

Once I even witnessed an argument break out. I do not speak German at all. OK that is not exactly true, but all the German I do know comes from war movies. It is pretty hard to make casual conversation out of halt, achtung, kaputt, hände hoch, arbeit macht frei and zwei Bier bitte. Anyhow, back to the argument…It was during a summer visit and the place was very crowded. We all were patiently waiting in line at the “Death House” in the first camp. Part of the exhibition is in the basement and includes a kind of chamber for torturing people. It was like a very small walled-in place that could only be accessed from a hole in the wall near the floor. Basically if you were forced to crawl in there, you’d have just enough room to stand up. It’s like an upright casket. I don’t know what happened when somebody collapsed from exhaustion in there because there was no door and not enough room to kneel, rest, or even lean. Anyhow, we were waiting patiently for our turn to see the exhibition. We were behind a group from Germany led by a very large tour guide. He made some kind of joke, patting his stomach, and the whole group laughed. I do not know what he said, but I speculate it had something to do with his not being able to fit in that chamber. Well, a Polish gentleman near us let him have it. It was the one time in my life I was sorry I couldn’t understand what people were saying.

World War 2 and Auschwitz are just as much a part of the German identity as it is the Jewish identity and the Polish identity. I don’t blame that German tour group for what happened 70 years ago, but shame on them for making jokes in a place like that.

Another time in the second camp a group of teens from Israel criticized us for walking near them as they were praying. They were marching in a column. We did not block them or disturb them in any way. They were quite rude actually saying something like they had more right to be there or something like that. It was very unpleasant.

Additionally, the parking attendant at the first camp criticized our parking skills (parking in a field). She wanted us to park closer to the tree near our car. We explained (I don’t know why we even tried) that the driver would not be able to get out of the car and that the 20 centimeters she hoped to save no longer made any difference as 10 other cars had already parked in our row. She was adamant. My father didn’t understand anything but figured this lady was having a bad day. He went and bought her an ice cream cone.

That just made me think that if we cannot even be nice to each other at Auschwitz, is there no hope for us at all?

Monday, January 26, 2015

No more wire hangers!


Yeah, that's me. Crazy mother. Worst mother in the world. OK sans face cream, wire hangers, and blatant child abuse, but still. Just this morning I made my child sit at the table and forbade her to get up until she ate the last bite of her breakfast. There were no "starving children" threats. There were no "other kids don't have it this good". Nope. Simply szlag mnie trafi when I prepare a meal and my kids leave one or two bites. Not because they are full, but because after eating a whole plate of something they suddenly don't like some ingredient in it. The same ingredient they just shoveled in. The same ingredient they requested.  And it's not a case of an allergy or intolerance...it's plain old widzimisię. Yes, they see bears and I see red.  

It's not like my father-in-law's reaction to not having enough to eat as a child. As a married man he never served his own plate even at weddings or buffets. His Polish wife always did it. He always left some food on his plate, at least a bite or two. "Nobody will tell me how much to eat." In my opinion, a better solution would be to serve your own plate than to waste food. He always did the dishes though. That was their deal at home. I thought that after a childhood without enough food, waste would be a problem for him. It wasn't. I suspect my mother-in-law ate that last bit anyhow. She hated waste. My grandmother also had to do without food sometimes as a child and she reacted the same way as my father-in-law. She disliked eating and threw away the last bits of food. I just cannot do it. I hate waste and since I am not a human garbage disposal, I think the kids should have to eat what they put on their plates especially when they've only got two bites left and are chomping on their third piece of bread.

So here I am. Kid finished her plate and is now cleaning her room, voluntarily, and I still feel like the worst mom around.

The above meme is Joan Crawford portrayed by Faye Dunaway in the movie Mommie Dearest. In this famous scene Joan scolds her adopted daughter for not changing out the wire hangers from the cleaners to wooden hangers as she had been told. She then beats her with those hangers, later forcing her daughter to repeat, "I love you Mommie dearest ". In one scene, the daughter is forced to sit at the table and eat liver which she detests. She refuses and is served the same cold liver, meal after meal, until she finally attempts to eat it and vomits all over the table. There were no good memes for that.

Well, maybe this one below. That's a whole other movie altogether, but this Exorcist crochet project is pretty cool.

I hope your Monday is starting out better than mine.

Szlag mnie trafi, which I am never sure if it is szlak or szlag, means damn it or even damn it to hell.
Widzimisię is a capricious whim, but split up in Polish is sounds like widzi misie which is I see bears.
To see red n English means to be angry, so when he kids refuse to finish their meal on a whim, it makes me angry.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Monday morning na wsi

have long envied men the penis. It is true. Oh not for the reasons you might suppose. As a member of the clan of the small bladder, I have envied men their external equipment for the sheer convenience of emptying the bladder easily and freely in nature. As my envy runs strong and deep, I certainly do not want to be confronted with my lack of convenient outdoor peeing ability by watching someone exercise their outdoor peeing ability...outside my kitchen window, at 8:00 a.m. as I make my morning coffee, penis-possessing pee-er facing towards the window, of course, not away.

You would think that brooding Amerykanka before her coffee standing at the window would be enough to deter the morning pees (yes, plural). But you would be wrong.

The pee-ers were part of a crew sent out to check our new sewer line. When I say "our" I mean my village - we've finally been connected to the main sewer line. And when I say "we" I mean basically nobody. Nobody on our street hooked up. We all have septic tanks, some of us even have fancy, smancy ecological septic systems. 

So when the crew had finished their public urination, smoking, and basic standing around, I saw that they came into our yard and were trying to open our septic system. I immediately opened the window to ask "Dude, whatchyadoin?" to which I got an explanation of how they were checking the new sewer pipes and so on. I replied that we were not connected to the sewer system to which the man replied that I must be mistaken as I have a manhole cover in my garden. This goes on for awhile until they are finally satisfied that that stinky containers in my front garden are actually part of our ecological septic system and not the municipal sewer system.

At this point I decided I could ask for a prośba, a little favor. Explaining that I fully understand their lack of dignified hygienic conditions and expressing my envy at their ability to conveniently empty their bladders, I requested that in the future they turn away from the windows while urinating as to maintain their privacy and my innocence :) They immediately apologized, promising to change their ways and came up with a favor themselves - 5 coffees and a cup of tea.

And that is how I came to be drinking coffee in my driveway at 8:30 this morning with 6 municipal sewer inspectors. That's how we start a typical day here in my village.

P.S. I decided to forgive them the public urinatuion as they did apologize. I even give them extra points for recognizing Lizzie is a girl. She made it hard dressed in camouflage and a hoodie. Okay, with a small minus for asking for explicit details of my heating bills and square meters of my house. They even inquired as to the presence of a dog and/or husband at home. I did not divulge presence or absence of dog or husband, but instead told them that I have a gun. That was a pretty good place to end our conversation. 

The aftermath-

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Kielbasa Stories on Facebook

Kielbasa Stories can now be found on Facebook.

I decided if Misiu, the man who repeatedly said that social networking is for Communists, finally joined Facebook, then Kielbasa Stories could join too.

Any tips or advice on how to best utilize a blog fan page would be appreciated.

Sank you very much!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015



We are a cabbage family. We love cabbage. Bigos, cabbage. Coleslaw, cabbage. Gołąbki, the best part is the cabbage. We especially love fried cabbage. It's really easy if you have a food processor. It's less easy if you don't.

You'll need:
a small cabbage, a carrot, an onion, dill, caraway, salt & pepper, sugar, vinegar, flour, butter.

Here's what to do:
Chop the onion and fry in a large frying pan using about 4 tablespoons of butter. When the onions soften and start to brown, add the grated cabbage and some grated carrot. This is where the food processor comes in handy. Hand grating isn't my thing. Add some water and cook the cabbage till it's soft. That will depend on the age of the cabbage and how thick it is cut. As the cabbage cooks add some salt, pepper, dill, and cumin to taste. Add a splash of vinegar and a teaspoon or two of sugar. Stir in some flour or other thickener. Cook everything down till the cabbage is soft and the liquid has reduced. Give it a taste and adjust the spices to your liking.

Smacznego. I hope you like it.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Kefirek, my love.

I like kefir. Mmmm kefir with that lovely, zingy, slightly sour taste. It's refreshing and if you choose the plain one (the only kind I drink), it's a relatively low fat, low calorie protein boost. 

And apparently it's good for a hangover according to Misiu.

Misiu is the one who introduced me to kefir, not for a hangover, for breakfast. Well, I am sure I didn't have a hangover at least. We were traveling, and we needed a quick, convenient, and cheap morning meal. Kefir and a roll. Easy peasy.

I still occasionally drink kefir for breakfast on the go. I also add it to recipes calling for milk or yogurt. Sometimes I use kefir to make a smoothie for myself and the kids.

Kefir is not completely unknown in the United States. It can be found in large cities and in specialty shops. I suspect the demand is fueled firstly by immigrants and secondly by health nuts. Kefir cannot be found in small town grocery stores in America as Misiu discovered as he stood with a huge hangover at the dairy counter in the grocery store in my hometown. He searched the shelves in desperation and then asked, "What is 'kefir' in English?" Kefir is kefir but that didn't help in locating it on the shelf. He decided to go for the buttermilk hoping it was the same as Polish maślanka, vowing to never drink again. American maślanka isn't exactly the same and the vow to never drink again, well, let's just say we have free access to Polish kefir now.

Na zdrowie.

Here's what the press has had to say about kefir lately:


Ciąża i poród – w Polsce czy USA?

For you Polish speakers out there, check out this blog post written by author and midwife, Maria Lepucka. Oh, and I might appear somewhere in there too.

Happy reading.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

What resolutions?

Or should I say "What fucking resolutions are you talking about, bitch?"

Wow. Chris version 2015 has some issues.

I do. I admit it. And flipping the calendar over isn't going to change them a damn bit.

My issues probably started the day I was born. Thanks genetics.

A little over a month ago I decided to do all my blood tests especially concentrating on thyroid (my mother's side) and cholesterol (my fathers side). Misiu decided to do his blood work too.

Flipping through the pages of results I commented to Misiu "Wow. Your cholesterol is really high." He leaned over, took a glance at the paper and said, "That's yours."

Almost 300.

294. That's almost 300.

That's like 100 more than normal.

Yep, this non-drinking, non-smoking, thin, exercising Amerykanka has a cholesterol level of almost 300. Oh and I have an under active thyroid. Good news all around.

The good news is that my good cholesterol is high. The bad news is that I cannot quit smoking and drinking, lose weight and start exercising to get my bad cholesterol under control. 

For the last month I decided to do take on my carbohydrates and see what happens....while I wait for my endocrinologist visit.

After one month of restricted animal fat, good fat only, zero trans fat and low carbs, I brought my cholesterol down by about 30.

I don't have any clever conclusions about that. Next blood test is in two months.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Bigos, baby!

Bigos is a Polish sauerkraut dish. It's warm, filling, perfect for cold winter days, and it's a crowd pleaser. Chris's Bigos Recipe can be found at the end of the post.

OK, it's a crowd pleaser when I make it, and the crowd consists of my family. It is not a crowd pleaser when your neighbor's father makes it, improperly stores it in jars, and you and your whole family (minus the one person who didn't eat any Bigos) spend the next three days in the bathroom. That was a couple of years ago, and it completely put us off Bigos. That's not what we had in mind for a New Year's cleanse.

I'm from Pennsylvania where it is a New Year tradition to make pork and sauerkraut served over mashed potatoes. They say it is an Amish tradition and that it brings good luck. With that tradition in mind, we decided to try our hand at Bigos again this year. I am proud to say that everything turned out as planned.

Bigos - Stage one: frying the onion, garlic, mushrooms and sausage with the other meat boiling in the back.

Bigos - Stage two: all ingredients simmering in the pot. Be prepared to be on "pot duty" in the kitchen. Somebody's got to keep stirring the Bigos so it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot.

Bigos - Stage three: finished product after an entire day of cooking. The cabbage and meat are completely softened, and the color has darkened. 

Slice of bread and ceramics from Boleslawiec, optional. Polish breakfast of champions 😉

Chris's Bigos Recipe - Polish Sauerkraut 

1.5 kilos (3 pounds) sauerkraut
1 large carrot 
1 onion
a couple cloves of garlic
1/4 pound mushrooms white or wild
prunes (20)
200 grams tomato paste (small jar)
1 tablespoon honey
meat of your choice but should include one smoked - I used smoked sausage and beef roast.
salt & pepper 
cumin - whole not ground
allspice - 3 berries 
laurel/bay leaf -2 or 3 leaves
juniper berry -2 or 3 crushed
sweet or semi sweet red wine - glass or two

How to make Bigos:
Rinse and chop the sauerkraut. Start cooking in pot or crockpot with some water. Grate or slice the carrot and add to the pot. Add water as needed. Some folks add some grated fresh cabbage as well. 

Fry the onion, garlic, mushrooms, and sausage. Boil or fry the remaining meat. I use 2 kinds of meat only, but some folks add smoked sausage, beef, pork or ham, and fried bacon. Add everything to the pot with the prunes, whole or chopped, spices and wine to taste, honey, and tomato paste. If you'd like a thicker stew, add some flour as a thickener. Cook forever till everything is soft and yummy. 

Adjust ingredients and proportions to your family's taste.