Wednesday, March 20, 2013

SPRING - A Time For New Beginnings, But Don't Forget Your Roots!

Though it's only 24 degrees here in Chicago, today is the first day of Spring -- the perfect time to start something new. Last year I launched a website for my artwork Today I am taking things a step further, by launching this blog (or relaunching it if you a are viewing it on my artwork website). Over the past year I have received a lot of positive feedback on my Facebook posts, particularly my cooking and re-purposing projects, as well as my art and photography. This blog will share my projects along with other helpful information that I come across.

There are many types of artists and artwork -- while some of my work might have a greater meaning, a lot of it is created because I think we should all live in beautiful surroundings. The same goes for my other projects. Having picked a lot of low paying jobs over the years, I have taught myself how to do a lot with a little. You don't need a big budget to make your home beautiful or put a delicious, healthy meal on the table, and this blog will show you how.

So that's the New Beginning, now for the roots -- literally and figuratively. Spring is a time for celebration in most cultures. Having been raised in the Christian tradition, that celebration is Easter. My Mother's family is Polish, and for the Polish, Easter is perhaps the most important holiday of the year, therefore, it also has special foods. My favorite is Easter or świeże kielbasa (świeże means fresh) served with horseradish. My grandmother didn't make fresh horseradish, she bought it in a jar from the local grocery store. I didn't have the real deal until I was living in upstate NY. I learned how to make it from a Slovenian farmer. Every year his son-in-law and his friends would come over to help dig the roots and clean and peel them. Depending on how potent the roots are, this could be an experience that literally brought tears to your eyes. After cleaning and peeling the roots were cut into smaller pieces and processed in a blender to the desired consistency. The end product was not the yellowish gray mush you buy in the store, but a snow white condiment bursting with not just heat, but flavor. It was love at first bite!

My first attempt to make horseradish on my own was less successful. The root I bought was on the weak side and was a little too tough and stringy. I decided that probably a store bought root was just not going to cut it and since I no longer lived in Upstate NY and had no place to grow horseradish that I would have to just enjoy the memory of days gone by. For the past few years I have spent Easter here in Chicago with my brother-in-law's cousins. Also of Polish descent (my brother-in-law's Grandfather had a Polish grocery store in Chicago's Bridgeport neighborhood), they enjoy many of the same Polish foods that I had growing up. Last year, while poking around one the Polish markets, I saw horseradish root and decided to give it one more try (worst case scenario, it would suck and I would bring something else to the dinner). The roots looked much fresher than the one I had bought at a grocery chain years ago and when I picked one up, there was actually a faint smell of horseradish. It turned out quite well and got rave reviews on Easter Sunday, so I am making it again this year. I picked up a root today (pictured here) and will post pictures of the finished product.

Horseradish Root
(c) 2013 Eric E. Paige, All Rights Reserved

We are a nation of immigrants and while it is important to move forward, it is also important to remember where we came from. In a culture that values homogeneity as much as ours, traditions can fade quickly. All four of my Mother's grandparents were from Poland, her parents could speak Polish, my Mom can understand most of a conversation in Polish but cannot speak it fluently, and my sister and I only know a few words and phrase. Food is a great way to honor our heritage - a direct sensory connection to the past. I hope, whatever your heritage, you take the time this Spring to enjoy the foods and traditions of your ancestors.


  1. Eric dobrze zrobione! Zbyt często zapominamy, że to rzeczywiście jest narodem imigrantów. Ja jestem z Polski przyzwoity. Kocham ten blog i czekamy na więcej.