Sunday, October 31, 2010

FIELD NOTES: Halloween Soup

Recreating Gramma's pumpkin soup with potato dumplings in my happy blue pot...
except I cheated by using pre-cut butternut squash...needs more flavoring, too....

A RECIPE: Hers, Mom's, Mine & Theirs

2 c. grated potatoes with or w/o skins,
1 egg, 1 c. flour, dash salt, tsp. sugar

Grate potatoes and remove excess moisture by squeezing & draining. In large bowl, beat egg; add salt, sugar and flour; add potatoes; consistency should be able to form small balls by hand to drop into boiling water. Coat hands with flour if sticky.

20 oz. pumpkin* or butternut squash, peeled, cut into squares
2 c. water + 1 1/2 c. water
 1/4 c. butter or margarine
1 1/2 c. milk or cream (your choice)

In large soup pot, cook pumpkin in 2c. water until soft (15-20 min.); drain, reserving water, then mash pumpkin in another bowl. Return reserved water to soup pot, add another 1 1/2 c. water to pumpkin water, bring to boil to cook dumplings. Drop dumplings in for several minutes until dough is cooked, then immediately add mashed pumpkin, butter, and milk. DO NOT BOIL milk. Finish with seasonings of choice: salt, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg.
*Try canned pumpkin or squash


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

FIELD NOTES: I have been to another world...


Victoria Rose Embros Kucinskas
March 22, 1922-August 27, 2010

Donald Kucinskas
January 1, 1921-January 6, 2009

          I am not sure how a daughter actually delivers a eulogy about a mother, how her voice can hold still if her mind is actually aware of what her mouth is saying, how her eyes can remain a dam against the release of thoughts that are not yet fully translatable even to herself, and to be articulated intelligibly before a gathering of people who surely knew her mother in different ways, their vibrations filling the atmosphere around the speaker; it does not seem possible…or adequate. But I will write it now…at least some of it…
          In the folder from her 60th High School Reunion, there are pages of “Fun Type Questionnaires for the Graduates of the Class of 1940”.  To the question “After you graduated were you doing what you always thought you would be doing the rest of your life?” my mother wrote: “Yes – being a wife, a mother and a grandmother.” She added a note to the bottom of the questionnaire: “I just want to thank God for all the blessings he’s bestowed upon our lives.”
          As children of immigrant parents in the Great Depression, she and my father were taught not to throw away anything that might be reincarnated into an alternative use or buy anything new unless something had truly worn out (read: disintegrated). She could sew, cook and nurture plants; he could wire, plumb and construct. Therefore, we children grew up not a house of “treats” but a house of resourcefulness, ingenuity, integrity and respect for stewardship. If my parents couldn’t repair something, it truly was broken…and you didn’t necessarily get another…
          My mother’s world was very small; she was proud of saying she lived in Terryville all her life in a great big triangle. She remembered moving from their first rent by walking down the street carrying her little celluloid duck under her arm. As she grew up at the second rent, she made a point of going out to the icebox in the hallway when she heard a certain young man coming down the stairs, a certain young man whose father owned the White Eagle Bakery and whom had delivered bread, for a time, by horse and cart. She was third in her class of thirty-six and was voted Best-Looking. She wanted to be a nurse, and volunteered as a Candy-Striper at the Bristol Hospital, but on her mother’s insistence, she became a secretary and found a place at the Phoenix Insurance Company because it was handy to ride the trolley into Hartford. There she made more life-long friendships with a group of women who called themselves the Gabby Girls until, one day, she said yes to a tipsy baker-turned-sailor on the phone from California; she and her mother planned a wedding in two weeks. After the war, the three-family house on the hill that her father had always greatly admired was for sale. She and my dad and my grandparents never left it. Her world was small, but the space she leaves is large.
          I did not know my mother as the beautiful, young woman with the great legs in the black and white photographs that showed off her inherited skill for sewing fashionable outfits, but I do know that friendship and family were very important to her as evidenced by all the little pieces of writing and drawing and cards in piles around her house. Visually, I knew her mostly in the teased hair of the 60’s and 70’s and enjoyed playing with her pointy, shiny high-heels. I characterize her personality as the good sport at family picnics and the “nice lady” around the town when we went on errands or shopped. Later, I admired her as a “business lady” in my dad’s new adventure called Cheshire Wayside Furniture, her grace to withstand local politics when my dad was mayor and her humbleness at drawing the attention of Polish customers at the bank when they discovered a teller who could speak their native language. She married a sailor, but she never liked to make waves.

          All I wanted to say was this:  “I had good parents.”

          If you can read between these four simple words, then you know how much weight they carry, how little else needs to be said in our complex, grownup world. Now, as a teacher of other people’s children and having had to learn the language of educational standards, I am struck by the idea that my parents somehow supported all the best practices of parenting without even knowing what they were called.
Thanks and Ja Cie Kocham
(that’s “I Love You” in Polish, pronounced Yacha kocham)

Victoria Rose Embros Kucinskas obituary