This Little Hunky Went To Market
I am frequently being sent assorted pictures on email. Most of these come from my kids, who want to share a picture of some cute little animal or something. Even though they both are in their 20’s, they will forever be little girls at heart. Allow me to share the latest………..
This little guy has to be as cute as it gets. Seriously, you have to agree. The part that you don’t know is that the original I was sent had some wording on it. It read, and I quote…..
“Nobuddee gunna pikkle deez feetz!”
Although I enjoy good ol’ Hunky cuisine, as a child growing up in a Slovak and Croatian environment, I have to admit that I was a picky eater. The truth is out. I used to give my mom a difficult time whenever I was asked to eat anything that was the least bit foreign to my palette. I had no problems with stuffed cabbage, kielbasa, perogies or any “normal” dishes. However, when it came to what I would term “bizarre” food, that’s where I drew the line. I mean, come on already! I was the kid who would hide uneaten tomato soup in his empty milk carton so Sister Emily wouldn’t catch me throwing it away. She knew I loved milk, so she never bothered to check my carton during lunch at the Holy Name cafeteria. At home, Mom’s way of dealing with my pickiness was to give me smaller portions of the things I’d turn my nose up at. Perhaps she did it in the hopes that I would “acquire” a taste for it OR perhaps she did it so I didn’t get my way. What ever the reason, I ended up trying it, gagging and then being sent up to my room. Fortunately, this didn’t happen often.
But seriously, let’s discuss the “dark side” of hunky cuisine. Let’s start with my little friend with the boots. Pig’s Feet!?! Seriously? I used to dread when my mom or dad would make it. The basement would be lined with shallow bowls of the stuff and slowly the clear liquid would begin to gel. Out of it would occasionally popped a pig’s toe or, God forbid, a stray stiff hair that somehow didn’t get plucked off of the foot! You couldn’t expect a kid to eat this stuff, could you? They used to sprinkle paprika on top of the concoction, which to me, only made it look more disgusting. Call me picky, but that stuff never passed my lips.
Then there was the oh so appetizing “blood pudding sausage.!” My dad LOVED this treat. Fortunately he knew when some things were futile, and so, he never asked my brother or I to try it. I looked it up on Wikipedia to gain a better understand of the components of the dish. I had this huge pang of guilt thinking I may have passed up one of hunky life’s simple pleasures by not eating it or even trying it. According to Wikipedia: “Black pudding or blood pudding is a type of sausage made by cooking blood or dried blood with a filler until it is thick enough to congeal when cooled. The dish exists in various cultures from Asia to America. Pig, cattle, sheep, duck and goat blood can also be used depending on different countries. In Europe, typical fillers include meat, fat, suet, bread, sweet potato, onion, chestnuts, barley, and oatmeal.” Needless to say, after considering a meal of cooked and congealed goat blood, chestnuts and suet, I decided my father was wise beyond his years in not attempting to make me eat that delight!
So let’s move on and discuss one of my favorite hunky foods…..PEROGIES. I loved them back then, and I love them now. Of course, as I was growing up, there were no such things as frozen perogies. They were always homemade. My mom never actually tried to make perogies from scratch, but either my aunts or a local church were always a great source for these treats. HOWEVER, for some reason, my dad and every one of his brothers and sisters insisted on serving perogies with what looked to be the most disgusting looking filling ever…… LAKVAR! Yuck. Lekvár is a very thick, sometimes coarse jam of pure ripened fruit. It doesn’t sound that bad, but let’s have a reality check here, does it look like a pile of prunes or a pile of _____ ???? You decide.
One of the staples in the hunky diet is soup. My mom made the most wonderful chicken soup, beef soup, bean soup and vegetable soup. Her soups were always very simple. I was familiar with every ingredient. The vegetables that she used were understandable to my young hunky mind. After she passed away, by dad stepped up to the plate and pulled out his innate culinary prowess. He was an exceptionally good cook. He never followed recipes and usually made up his own. He was amazing.
Dad’s soups were always a bit more complex and innovative than Mom’s. Even I, the pickiest hunky ever born, loved them… with a few exceptions. My issue was when my dad decided he needed to get in touch with his hunky “roots.” I’m not referring to his Slovakian heritage a’ la Alex Haley however. I’m talking about real ROOTS! Those things that grow underground. I could never be convinced to eat them. Carrots… I could do, potatoes…… no problem, onions….. not an issue. However, my dad would occasionally cross over to that dark side again and plop some grotesque underground anomalies into that cauldron of a soup pot. Parsnips, rutabaga and the ever mysterious kohlrabi would all be used at one time or another. I’m sorry, but I swear that you could boil those roots for hours and hours and still break a tooth on them. Seriously, were they REALLY that necessary?? I assure you that Rachael Ray would never use any of those ingredients in her Meals in 30 Minutes recipes!
Of course, you must know that I critique all of the above with the most loving of feelings for the culture they came from. I will always accept and embrace who I am and what Duquesne was all about. I am forever proud of my hunky heritage, ………it’s only the roots that are so hard to swallow!!
Later my friends!
Let me start with saying that I am the poster boy for hurka (blood sausage).
I will drive to Milwaukee St in Chicago to get the good stuff. It still does not rank with the homemade sausage made by my grandparents friend but it’s close enough.
I’m also one of the kohlrabi lovers. Always had the salt shaker in my pocket as you would never know when the stars aligned and right there in front of you was the vegetable of choice.
Lekvar was the nectar of the gods, especially if it was encased in my grandmothers dough for kolach. Apricot was second best. At Christmas it was my job to brush the tops of these delicacies with the egg mix using the special feather brush she had for the purpose.
Jim, I have to agree with your assesment of pigs feet. I think that my mother found out that if she wanted to enhance any idea she had that involved my dad, it had to start with making “kolchinina”.
I couldn’t stand to look at the dishes in the refrigerator.
As for eating things I didn’t like, I may as well have eaten it then as nothing got thrown away and it would come back to haunt me in a different recipe format within 3 days.
Disgusting. Pigs feet and the hairs and jelled….gross. The end.
I used to love sneaking into Belenski’s garden on Doney and taking kohlrabi and eating it raw. You can still buy it at Krogers, at least here in Indiana.
You can buy both kohlrabi and and rutabaga at any Giant Eagle in the Pittsburgh area. I use rutabaga in butternut squash soup . I never use kohlrabi and can’t remember my mother cooking it. I do remember the hunkies eating it raw. On Fridays in lent, we used to walk from Holy Name to the old St.Peter and Paul church on First Street to eat Pierogies. There were a couple of girls in my class who belonged to that church. They were soooooo good. The old ladies were there making them from scratch. Not those stamped ones from Mrs. T. Being Irish through and through, that was my first exposure to lakvar. I liked it!
..there was a butcher shop in downtown Mckeesport (I can’t remember it’s name) that used to display the pig’s feet in the front window along side a pig head in a bed of ice …it was so gruesome!! … my uncle would say ” kolchininna” yum that’s so good
I don’t think you can find Kolarabi , unless you grow them yourself …but I find that the core of a cabbage head tastes remarkably similar …for those of us who enjoy a nice bite of kolarabi …next time you’re coring that cabbage for halushki or stuffed cabbage …put a little salt on that core & it will take you back to Duquesne summertime.
Probably right about finding store bought kolhrabi- my wife made two ducks for Christmas, and when the company didn’t arrive (work/weather) she found a recipe for duck soup with potatoes, turnips and parsnips. Said you could add rutabaga & kohlrabi, but couldn’t locate those two. Trick is to dice them all very fine: potatoes cooked to cream and the turnips and parsnips gave it a taste our grandparents would remember. Those root veggies were a big part of home gardens; easy to grow, kept well in a cool place, ie ,”root cellar”, and are high in minerals and vitamin C! Got you through the long cold winters.
OMG You talk about good eating——Jellied Pig’s Feet (Studenina). That was a great breakfast on a Sunday morning after you came home from Church. I could remember Saturday morning and the odor of mom burning the hairs off of the feet by holding them over the gas flame. Then she would wash the feet well and put in enough water to cover- to that she added garlic and a large onion salt, pepper and paprika. Cook until the meat falls from the bones, which took all day on low heat. Ahhhhhh the aroma in the house was something else. Before going to bed she would put the liquid into bowls, ours were the clear ones, but my dad’s had the “meat”. She would try to take out most of the bones but I could remember my dad sucking that good meat off of the bones that mom missed. She would put the bowls in the refrigerator or cold place, (cellar steps) to thicken. You ate them with salt and pepper and you had to have rye bread. Now that was the breakfast of champions!!!!! My husband is from St Michael’s in Munhall and like I said before I am from Holy Trinity in Duquesne and well you put out two families together and we still do all the Slovak traditions. As a matter of fact we made studenina down here in Austin, Texas last month. Had a hard time finding the pig’s feet but Jim did and we made it and ate every last bowl. Yummy!! Did I make anyone hungry or are you going to diet the rest of the day?????
Enjoy yourself! Just love reading about Duquesne! Thanks for the site! I could go on and on about finding lekvar,that is the spelling my mom used, just had my son bring me down six cans from Cleveland, Ohio this past summer. Looked on my can of Solo and they now call it Prune Plum. Does anyone remember making and eating Bobalky? It was only made and eaten on Christmas Eve. That night we had oplatky,garlic,mushroom soup,bobalky, honey,rice, navy beans, lekvar bread, and nut rolls. Okay enough from me, lets hear from someone else, thanks for listening and reading.
I’m with Jim on the rutabaga, kholarabi and add to that turnips – grandparents and parents tried to get them in me and rarely succeeded. But I really do miss the traditional Slovak foods especially the Christmas foods Claudia mentioned – mushroom soup, bobalki were favorites. My grandmother made the most wonderful apple strudel with a paper thin dough that my mother tried to do for years [great cook that she was] and couldn’t match. We also had the nut and poppyseed rolls which I died for. My wife tried to make some of the recipes my mother wrote down for her but unfortunately all were lost when we had a basement flood during one of our moves and lost them all. Fortunately my daughter married a Romanian bpy and while their foods are different we share some things alike and she has learned to make fantastic stuffed cabbage in the old style with saurkraut.
And the nice part of Duquesne was I could get the great food at any of my relatives and many of my friends homes. The old saying that it takes a village to raise a child seemed to very true among the Slovaks of Duquesne as I remember having loads of ‘extended’ family/parents to look out for us kids.
I thought everyone’s stuffed cabbage pot had saurkraut in it
I’m with you about pig’s feet. My sister and I were allowed to suck the bones and the meat was so sweet. You had to slice it like a pie and eat it with dark pumpernickel bread and salt and pepper. YUM!
We make bobalky on Christmas Eve, but I cheat and use frozen bread dough. My kids love this dish.
Oh Jim, I’m so SORRY. I too was ‘exposed’ to Lekvar (favored by the Slovaks) pirohi as a child. UGH. Too bad your mother never made real homemade Croatian pirohi. Traditionally made with Dry Curd cottage cheese as a filler, about size of the palm of your hand, and dripping with melted butter and sauteed onions, this babies are a heart attack in every bite. My Gramma Evanish taught my Mom who taught my German wife, and now homemade pirohi are a staple diet on the Fridays of Lent as well as Christmas Eve and Holy Saturday! If you get back to da ‘Burgh for Lent, go the Fish Fry at St Joe’s in Fatima Hall. Way more than fish, and yep, orginal cheese filled Pirohi! BTW, while never forced to actually eat Krvavica(blood sausage), I watched Gramma make it once; olfactory memories I just as soon NOT have.
Yeah, my mom made pig’s feet too. She was the only one in our house that would eat them however. I could never get passed the sound that the jelly made when she would lift them out from the bowl. Sort of like a squishy suction slurpie noise. She also liked to indulge in head cheese and liver pudding. Fortunately for me dad would have no part in those epicurean delicacies therefor I didn’t have to partake. I did, much to everyone’s disgust, LOVE lekvar ‘rogies. And I still do.
Oh , btw, Giant Eagle in Unity township and Latrobe both sell kolhrabi.
My favorite pirohi was the potato filled with saurkraut a distant 2nd. Forget the Lekvar!! Another food I remember at our house was palochinki [sp??] which was the egg batter crepe filled with cottage cheese and rolled.