The foodie: I am a foodie. I guess I’ve always been one. My love of food goes way back. Not ever tasting anything I didn’t like was a start. My first memory of being a foodie was my Dad baking oyster crackers. I was less than 5. He wasn’t making them from scratch so I can’t figure out why he was baking them. I think we were eating clam chowder and he was warming them up on a cookie sheet. The whole process of preparing food and then eating it and appreciating it appealed to me even then.
I could have turned out to be someone who just likes to eat. That’s what my husband is. He does not like all foods. I find him somewhat picky and he is not a fan of vegetables. He likes food and he likes to eat but he’s more practical about it. Food is fuel. It tastes good and he enjoys it but you won’t hear him making “mmmmmm” sounds when he eats like I do. He is also not concerned with the how, why, when and where of food.
I adore food. I think about it all the time. I get excited about my next meal. It arouses my senses. The colors of it. The textures. The smells. And oh yes, the taste. I am passionate about food. I like to read about it, cook it, eat it, talk about it, look at it.
So when we recently went to Detroit and planned to visit Hamtramck, the old Polish neighborhood, I had kielbasa in mind.
Hamtramck is technically its own city. It is a small city engulfed by Detroit. Hamtramck was named after French-Canadian soldier Jean Francois Hamtramck, the first American commander of Fort Shelby, the fortification at Detroit.
Large numbers of Polish immigrants came to Hamtramck in 1914. Poles used to make up a large proportion of the population. In 1970, 90% of the population was Polish. By 2000 that percentage dropped to 22%. Over the past thirty years, a large number of immigrants from the Middle East and South Asia have moved into Hamtramck.
Detroit is frigging cold. And that’s an understatement. On this particular Sunday morning it was 18 degrees. Of course, 18 degrees in Detroit feels like arctic conditions to me. My cousin had told me that all the sausage places would be closed on Sunday but we went anyway. Sunday morning was the only time we had available to visit Hamtramck.
The main street in Hamtramck had a few sausage places – all closed. Here’s one of them.
We finally ended up at the Polish Market.
There were rows and rows of sausage.
I asked the clerk if it was already cooked. That’s what we wanted since we wanted to eat some! She said it was already cooked. I told her that we wanted kielbasa. She said that kielbasa means sausage in Polish, so it was all kielbasa. Boy, did I feel stupid.
I should have at least gone to Wikipedia before our visit. If I had I would have learned the following:
Originally made at home in rural areas, there are a wide variety of recipes for kielbasa preparation at home and for holidays. Kielbasa is also one of the most traditional foods served at Polish weddings. Popular varieties include:
- kabanosy, a thin, air-dried sausage flavoured with caraway seed, originally made of pork
- “kiełbasa wędzona”, polish smoked sausage, used often in soups.
- krakowskaa thick, straight sausage hot-smoked with pepper and garlic; its name comes from Krakow
- wiejska, a large U-shaped pork and veal sausage with marjoram and garlic; its name means “rural” or (an adjectival use of) “country”, or (adjectival use of) “village”.
- weselna, “wedding” sausage, medium thick, u-shaped smoked sausage; often eaten during parties, but not exclusively
The most popular kiełbasa is also called “Polska kiełbasa” (for “Polish Sausage”) or “Kiełbasa Starowiejska” known as “Old Country Style Sausage”. This one comes closest to what is generally known in America as “kiełbasa” (a Polish sausage). Nowadays, many major meat packers across America offer a product called “kiełbasa,” usually somewhat different from the original.
I asked the clerk what kinds of kielbasa there were. She said that there were lots of kinds and flavors: mild, garlic, spicy, etc. I asked for a medium-regular one. I guess I’m not the most educated foodie. I’m an accidental tourist kind of foodie.
We bought 2 links, each link about 12 inches long. She wrapped it up in white paper with a small piece of brown masking tape. It was only $4! We also bought some beer-flavored bread sticks with sesame seeds, bottled water, and blueberry jam.
After we left the market, we did a wee bit of sightseeing. It was too cold for more. We visited the Catholic Church where they still say the Mass in Polish, St. Florian. It’s a lovely old church.
Our last stop was the Pope John Paul II memorial.
No matter where I go, food is a big part of the experience. I mean, you gotta eat: you may as well get excited about it.
Someone who just likes to eat: It was pretty good.