Shopping For Kielbasa
My last two blogs are ethnically connected.
They are both rooted in New Britain, Connecticut. This is where my Polish grandparents lived, and where my doctor’s office is.
When I was a little girl, my Babci used to take me down Broad Street to all the Polish shops. Lots of little markets, and no one speaking English. Babci’s English consisted mostly of the question, “You like it?” and if I said yes, and it wasn’t expensive, there was a good chance she’d buy it for me. Coloring books, candy bars, and gum mostly. Although she had a penchant for little ankle socks–I think because they cost $0.49 back then, and which she’d measure by wrapping them around my fist. She’d buy me my little treat, paid for with dimes and pennies out of the world’s oldest coin purse, and then she’d go back to her long mysterious conversation with the shopkeeper. All those years, and I never learned more Polish than ‘Please’, ‘Thank You’, and my numbers from one to ten. I never even got to eleven.
Last week, in the hour and forty-five minutes that I sat in my new (and young) doctor’s waiting room, I read a quarter of a book. But I also eavesdropped on a lot of familiar mysterious conversations.
Polish immigrants still abound in New Britain.
So after the good news (I didn’t sever my spinal column, thank god…although now I’ve got a colonoscopy hanging over my head…which is a weird metaphor) I had a strong hankering.
I convinced my husband (in about 1.5 seconds-his mother was Polish too) to go down to Broad Street to the Polish markets.
If anything, the stores on Broad Street have become even more Polish in the last sixty years. Not only can you go to the Polish deli, you can go to the Polish hairdresser, Polish travel agency and Polish tattoo parlor. We stuck to the deli.
This Polish deli has everything. This is not your mom-and-pop hole-in-the-wall. We’re talking multiple aisles of every kind of food and a take-a-number deli counter.
The choices are marvelous.
Here’s the kielbasa:
But that may not be exactly what you want. So here are the hanging kielbasas:
Now with this selection, you may wonder how you choose. Especially when the nice girls (there are four clerks behind the deli counter) speak a different language.
You pick out a kielbasa that looks like what your grandmother used to make (or any one… it’s a sausage after all, not a baby). And you point to it.
And we wanted prepared food too – we wanted golumpki (or golabki, galumbka, gawumpky – there are as many spellings as there are kielbasas. Stuffed cabbage. And pierogi (dumplings). I channeled my Babci and said those words with the best Polish inflection I could summon. The girl smiled. I’m sure she laughed like hell as soon as I was out of earshot.
While we waited for our turn at the deli, we watched the ads on the wall-mounted TV. They mostly were about voting for beauty queens, I think. There were girls and zodiac signs and phone numbers. It could have been phone-sex, but there were lots of old ladies there, and they didn’t seem offended.
When I say that they have all kinds of food, I’m serious. It’s not just Polish food. You can buy anything you want in a Polish package. They had Polish pizza and corn chips and pasta. And just in case you feel like sushi, you can do that too:
With all the cooking instructions conveniently in Polish.
We bought a Polish babka (bread) and headed to my mother’s to share the feast. (She was delighted.)
On the way out, I noticed that you can even buy Polish porn.
This is a really fine idea. What good would girly magazines be if you couldn’t read the thought-provoking articles?