Change is good…. or is it?
I met a woman from the United States recently. We were talking about the past. She said her grandmother was born in a house with a thatched roof in Poland in the 1890s. Her grandmother was one of ten children. The family choose to migrate to the United States at the beginning of the twentieth century. One day she was reading a book on Poland. This book described making kielbasa sausage using pig’s intestines for the casing, and the pork and other recipe items for the filling. These were then hung in a cavity in the chimney to be smoked, and to cure. She told this to her mother, who replied, "Oh yes, that is how my mother used to make kielbasa." This woman had no idea that this was part of her recent family history and culinary culture. Within two generations, the skill was not practised, and even the knowledge of the skill was not known within her generation.
When we reflect on our lives and I think of the world of my grandparents and parents and compare that to world of my children, much has changed. My grandparents where born in the first decade of the twentieth century. My parents were children of the 1930s, adolescence occurred in the 1940s. My parents and my children live in vastly different worlds.
I grew up in a household were there was large vegetable garden with most of our veges were grown at home. Dad was in charge of the vege garden, although he was not adverse to using child labour to assist him. My kids get their veges from the market or supermarket. We have rhubarb growing in what we euphemistically call a garden and we do grow a few herbs too. However the notion of producing all your vegetables from the garden is an alien one to my children.
Mum as queen of the kitchen preserved heaps of fruit during the summer, made jam and did lots of baking. She knew how run a household on a very tight budget. Her father killed animals for the family meat. These initially came from the farm, and then from their small landholding where he ran a market garden and ran a few animals. My kids know how to bake, however many of the skills of my mother will be lost within our family. We do not make brawn from a pig’s head. We do not have the soup pot that goes all winter with a bit of this and a bit of that added, and then a bit more of this to keep it going. Preserving fruit and making jam are skills that are not practiced in our home.
We do make some pretty mean soups though. I specialise in making a particularly delicious seafood chowder. The kids also really like the chicken and chorizo soup I make – it’s a firm favourite, see link.
Life goes on and generational change occurs. However it does show that within a couple of generations skills, knowledge and culture can be lost and dissipated. So here’s to smoked kielbasa, smoked by the cooking fire in a thatched roof cottage in late nineteenth century Poland.