Finding Your Roots:
Roots cooking means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. To some people it means learning the dishes your mother/grandmother/family cooked during your childhood, to others (like me) it is more about exploring recipes and foods from you cultural and ethnic background. I look at it as a good way to get in touch with a background I know very little about and try to explore whatever food-heritage I might have, even if it is not directly linked to a family member(s) from my actual family history. I think it is important to have a sense of background and where we come from as people. How we came to exist in the time and place we do and to me food is the most gratifying way to do it. I don’t come from a large or close knit family and the origins of parts of my family tree in America are dark and murky at best, let alone the completely unknown European end of my family history. Talking about this with friends over the years I have come to find that this is a pretty common thing.
My personal background is in the Polish/German end of the later 1800’s early 1900’s immigration to America boom with a little Irish in the mix (though I don’t really identify with it). As far as I can tell all the European roots from all sides of my family tree immigrated through New York City around the same 20-30 year period and scattered from there. My great grandparents apparently lost their last name, like so many families, by a common (at the time) paperwork problem and with it a large chunk of their identity and ties to the old world. The immigration forms at the time apparently only had 10 spaces for letters of a last name, so the original “Niewiadomski” a somewhat common polish name was for one reason or another changed to “Nevadomski” which is unique to my great grandparents after immigration. I know very few of my extended family that carry that name, didn’t know my grandparents well (on either side) while they were alive, and the history and cultural roots were all but forgotten or unknown by everyone I do know.
With all this mystery and lack of history I have always been interested in finding my own ties to the past, whether genuine or not. Cooking German and Polish food is something I have discovered helps fill that void. There is something inherently uplifting and tribal about exploring your personal roots through cooking, whatever they might be. Imagining that some long lost ancestor might well have prepared (or at least eaten) some version of the same dish you are cooking is very gratifying and fun. Like exploring any culture through its food there will always be a learning curve and some misadventures, but there is a little extra undefinable satisfaction to be enjoyed when the culture you are exploring is your own.
Part 11 – Haluski
This dish may be an old world classic but it’s relatively new to me. Its utter simplicity is contrasted by its complex mixture of flavors and textures. There are of course multiple versions and variations on the basic theme but I keep mine simple and focus on quality ingredients. Haluski is the quintessential one pot 20min meal. It can be prepped and cooked in under 20min, made to serve two adults or expanded to feed a house full with ease. It is fresh and nutritious while still being VERY inexpensive to make. Perfect for a quick family meal with no advanced planning or preparation.
You will need:
Smoked Sausage (I like local Hartman’s, Swans or Alpha European)
Egg Noodles (I like extra broad No Yokes)
Salt & Pepper
Start by filling a pot with enough water to cook the noodles in and bring to a boil. While waiting for the water to come up to temp prep the other ingredients by first slicing the smoked sausage into pieces, chopping the onion into long thin chunks and chopping the garlic into small minced pieces. Cut the cabbage in half and remove the core/stem and any wilted outer leaves. Thinly slice the cabbage lengthwise into strips.
Once the water comes to a boil add in the noodles, while they are cooking heat a large pan on a medium high heat and melt the butter, add a splash of oil then lightly fry the onion, garlic and sausage until they start to color, then mix in the cabbage and cook until it starts to wilt but still retains some of its bright green color and crunch.
Drain the cooked noodles and place them on a plate(s) to serve. On top of the noodle bed place the cooked cabbage/sausage mixture from the pan including any butter/oil and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
Between Now and Then sharpen your blades and chew the fat:
J.Nevadomski (also known as Juda) is an accomplished musician and artist from Rochester. He has recorded with musicians from all over the world for his project “The Fragile Path” (which he heads and produces) and is a veteran artist who’s paintings have been featured in galleries, newspapers and exhibitions throughout the Rochester area. In 2012 he was the “artist guest of honor” at RocCon: Rochester’s Anime, Sci-Fi and comic book convention. He lives in the NOTA area of Rochester, keeps a yearly urban vegetable garden and regularly cooks and hosts dinner parties for friends and colleagues.