Making Poulet Rôti Grand-Mere (Roast Chicken Grandmother-style) I think about my own maternal and paternal grandmothers. My father’s mother passed away way before I was ever a glimmer in my parent’s eye. Grandma Maria died in the 1950s of a skin melanoma – when she finally had it checked out it was too late and her body was riddled with cancer.
I imagine Grandmother Maria making all sorts of Portuguese food, simple food with simple flavors. Pork and clams, chorico flamed with aquavit, codfish cakes, shrimp with rice, roasted pork and delicious Portuguese fried doughnuts. From the pictures I’ve seen of my Grandmother she had a stalwart beauty, dark somewhat sad eyes, alabaster skin, and a brooding smile. My curiosity led me to study our genealogy, but I’ve come up against many obstacles to learn more about her. All I have is a few photographs, one in particular that I love is my Grandparents wedding picture from the 1920s. Grandmother’s flapper style dress and Grandfather’s three-piece suit – they were very young and hopefully very much in love.
On my mother’s side, tragedy struck my Polish Grandma twice, her first husband died after fighting in the First World War, she had one child from that marriage and re-married a Polish man who lost his wife to tuberculosis. He had two children and after they wed they had two more children, my Mom and my Aunt Helen. Growing up during the depression, life was tough and my Polish Grandparents worked hard to feed their kids. In the 1930s my Grandfather was working the second shift in a factory and was struck by a truck while he was walking to work and was left for dead – a hit and run that was never solved by the police. My Grandmother Anna was devastated and my mom was only 10 years old when her Dad died.
Grandma Anna, was a tough woman, born in 1881 she came the United States alone when she was just 16 years old. She worked in garment factories and lived until 1970. There are lots of pictures of my mother’s mom, many where she is happy and enjoying herself.
I was only about 9 months to a year old when my grandmother died. So again I never knew her either – I only have the stories my mother tells me about her. I know what types of food Grandma Anna made, traditional Polish food, the kind of hearty fare one would eat in the Polish countryside. Lots of kiełbasa (Polish Sausages), pierogi (dumplings filled with sauerkraut or potatoes and cheese), kapusta (sauerkraut), stuffed cabbage, borscht (soup), chrzan z buraczkami (traditional condiment of horseradish and beets), good rye bread and for dessert babka, & makowiec (poppy seed cake).
To this day, my family eats Polish food for Easter, it’s just the way we celebrate the holiday and I wouldn’t change it a bit.