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Meditations on Chrusciki

When is a cookie more than a cookie? When it reminds us of what is important in our lives.

The holidays, and the New Year in particular, are the perfect time for us to reflect on what we've accomplished or not accomplished over the past year. For me, "accomplished" does not mean what I've achieved in my work life or the number of books I've read or the household projects I've finished. It doesn't mean becoming more organized or getting in shape (although I wish both of these would magically happen).

Every year, I make the same sort of resolutions: see, and stay-in-touch with, family and friends, be more creative, pay more attention to what is important. Every year, I mostly fail at accomplishing my resolutions due to exhaustion, inertia and the things that life throws at all of us: work, chores, doctor's appointments, tax returns, illness, the time-suck that is the Internet.

A busy work life and the need to cram chores (laundry, cleaning, appointments, shopping) into off-work time means that I might have clean underwear but I won't visit with family.

A strong internal critic often halts my creativity, stopping me from writing because it's a long process full of constant real-time editing and the feeling that others have already said what I am trying to say -- and have done it so much better (also: see "a sense of responsibility" below).

A sense of responsibility and the belief that I should always be doing something "worthwhile" as opposed to enjoying myself are other reasons why I often don't pay attention to what I know is really important in my life (and believe me, it's not having freshly-vacuumed floors).

Which brings me to the chrusciki. 

On Christmas Eve, my sister brought a tray of cookies to our family celebration. The next morning, my daughter held up one of those cookies, a chrusciki, and asked, "What's this?"

I was incredulous. "What do you mean 'what's this?' It's a chrusciki."

"What's a chrusciki?"

And I thought, how can it be possible that I, a person of Polish heritage, raised on chrusciki, pierogies*, golumpki and cauliflower topped with brown-buttered breadcrumbs, had not introduced my children to chrusciki?

In that moment, I realized that, for me, passing on to my children some of what I had experienced as a child was important, and I had failed at that task.

Really chruscikis are more than cookies to me, they are part of a story I want to tell about my life and the things that matter most to me, like chrusciki and how my mother would cook them, and how being Polish and Irish and raised as a Catholic in northeast Philly defined me when I was growing up and shaped the person I am today.

Last night my mother, step-father, husband and I were discussing resolutions. I had a singular one: to learn to become a better photographer. But now, after meditating on the Chrusciki Incident, I resolve again to:

  • spend more time with family and friends;
  • strengthen and foster my creativity (write AND take photographs);
  • pay attention to what is important to me -- taking a long walk in Valley Forge Park with my husband, visiting a museum, spending all day reading the Sunday N.Y. Times, learning to make chrusciki.

Wish me luck.

*It's only thanks to Mrs. T's that my children know how wonderful pierogies are.

This post was originally published on ReginaFried.com on January 1, 2013.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Andrea Lynch January 02, 2013 at 03:37 PM
I feel that, in spite of a "chrusciki-less" childhood, you have done a pretty nice job with those children of yours. Just sayin'.
Regina DiLabbio Klugh King January 04, 2013 at 11:09 PM
Now you did it -- my resolution was to curb my enthusiasm for food (my eternal nemesis) -- and you go and mention chrusciki, golumki (we call them haloopkies), pierogies, which led me to kolatchkee, halushki, kielbasi and all the eastern European foods of half my childhood (the other half being the pastas and sauces of the Italian hills) -- perhaps my resolution was made in haste. Maybe I should wait until after my birthday (the 19th) to shock and awe my body. But then, there's Valentine's Day, then St. Patty's, and Easter, Mother's Day and the next thing you know, Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day, followed by Columbus Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas again. So, I'll schedule my resolution for 12/26-12/30 just to make sure I can keep it! That is, if there are no pizzelles left over! :-)
Regina Fried January 05, 2013 at 04:24 PM
Regina, I am so torn when it comes to food. I want to eat healthy. But I also want to say "the hell with it all," and eat whatever I want (which at this moment is a big plate of pierogies with lots of fried onions and real full-fat sour cream).
Regina Fried January 05, 2013 at 04:26 PM
Don't you think there should be a universal "like" button across all web platforms? I really wanted to hit "like" on this comment. Thanks, Andrea.
A mom January 10, 2013 at 01:40 PM
I loved your article. I too grew up in a very Polish family (in Buffalo NY) where Christmas eve was a huge traditional event. I always loved my grandma's piernicki (the anise cut-out cookies) and kruschiki. Also no potato pierogi, it was cheese which were fried & saurkraut which were boiled & you poured melted butter on those. It's so nice to read of other people in this area with these traditions. I also find it interesting the slight differences in the names - i.e. kielbasa vs. kielbasi, galumpki vs. halooshi - I'm sure it's just a regional thing like us saying soda instead of pop, hoagie vs. sub. And you're right - thank goodness for Mrs. T's, I just wished they'd carry the non-potato varieties around here.

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