Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Family, Food and Frogs (in that order)

Well what a weekend of religiousity. I have just returned from a location called Sokolka (pronounced So-cool-kar) it is in the North East of the country and is in the "Border Zone" with Belarus. http://maps.google.pl/maps?q=sokolka&oe=utf-8&rls=org.mozilla:en-GB:official&client=firefox-a&um=1&ie=UTF-8&split=0&gl=pl
and if you wish to read more about it then see http://www.sokolka.pl/english.htm.
So we went to visit the family there in the northeast, this included Haggi the dog, and Latka (pronounced wot-kar) the slightly mental cat. The drive from Warsaw was around 4 hours and was quite pleasant, even though I was absolutely starving once I arrived, that was the last time I was to ever think that. I finally got to meet the animals as well as Marta's mother and brother. Upon arrival we sat down to start what was to be basically 3 days of non-stop eating. When we got there the food was basically ready, salad, mashed potatoes with dill and some delicious fish (being Friday and Easter this was very typical). It was delicious and I felt like I had eaten my weight in food before I staggered away from the table. We took in a brief stroll around their house and property which is quite large but not all being used as they loan out the paddocks near the house to local farmers. The scenery in this part of the country is small farmlets and small patches of forest, interdispersed by little towns. Sokolka is about 20,000 people, all of which seem to go to church.

Friday night I took over and tried to bake Hot X Buns for the family, based on my grandfathers recipe which I think was designed to make about 120, I had to play around with the measurements which were all of course in imperial! So after goofing around with that for a while I decided to bake, you can see them in the slideshow attached here. They turned out ok, until the next evening when they became rockbuns instead. I think Haggi had a good time with them after that. That night I sat down and drank some Mead or Miod as it is called in Poland, which was good fragrant of blossoms but still not as horribly sweet as some of the others I have tried previously.

The next day was a little cloudy, we had the chance to take a walk around Sokolka to see the fancy churches and poked around a little. We also painted eggs in some radiant colours which are traditional for Sunday (photos provided). In the evening I treated the family to a fish pie that I made (pic included), and had them watch Rabbit Proof Fence to learn a little about Australia, history, landscapes but best of all more accents :)

Sunday was the Church day for everyone (except me). So the family were all up and about at 0545 (or earlier) to see that Jesus bloke appear in wafer and wine form as I understand it, while I got to curl up and snooze a few more blissful hours. Then the real Easter thing commenced, the family morning had arrived, we went to Grandma and Grandpa's apartment in the middle of town and sat down to a huge meal. In the meal there were more meat dishes than you could imagine and of course the blessed eggs (not chocolate ones) and salt which are traditional in this part of the world for Easter. With me being the guest from furtherest afield I was the centre of attention, so I tried to wow everyone with stories of Australia and the excitement of living in a desert surrounded by sharks and crocodiles :) Or at least to tell them a little about what my Australian Easter entails, which is mostly chocolate and football. We ate almost every kind of meat, chicken, pork, beef, sausage (could be any meat but was homemade by Grandpa), turkey and more eggs. Of course there were some sides to the meat extravaganza and that included home made Ogorki, Tatar sauce (the Tatars actually live just up the road), green sauce (many green vegetables blended to a paste), salads of all sorts. Then there was dessert which was cheesecake, Babka (is a common word for woman but is also a yeast cake) and Mazurek (flat cake of pastry covered with a paste of nuts, almonds, cheese etc and then colourfully iced and decorated with fruit and nuts again), the latter two are the most traditional. The whole time I was having stories translated to me as well as having my stories translated back to the grandparents and Marta's parents. It was certainly a fun morning, and it finished with some honey vodka and some jokes around local idioms.

After the morning I was desperate to do something as I felt I had eaten a whole world of food. So Marta and I went for a stroll to the river and lakes near the family house. It was really lovely, nice and sunny and we found lots of frogs in the area (photos above). It was a nice stroll and a good chance to burn off a little of the calories that we had consumed. Upon return some of the extended family arrived and we drank coffees (and ate more cakes), while telling jokes and watching silly clips on the internet. It certainly was a long afternoon where you felt you needed to do something to get rid of the food you had consumed, so we rumnmaged through one of the old barns on the property which was nice to see some of the old relics that were still there. At night we sat and listened to Marta's brother play some songs on the guitar, well not whole songs it just seems he learns the intro or the chorus. It was nice, made me feel like I was in the Walton's or something.

Monday came and we decided to plant some trees! We wanted to reduce the global footprint and to brighten the area near the house with some beautiful birches and pine trees which we were able to obtain locally. So we planted 15 trees and we were allowed to name one each. I called mine Gary as that is how Grandpa had pronounced my name the day before as he couldn't say the th in Garth, Marta called hers Linda because it looked like a Swiss Pine which is called Limba in Polish. Hopefully she will grow as big to 35m, that would certainly help fence the property. Whilst doing this I was also roasting some honey garlic Pork neck with some potatoes in the oven. We planted out all the trees and then came inside to eat. It was a really nice meal with a couple of side salads too. Then after lunch we went back out to tender the areas around our trees, laying straw and crowding the bases with rocks. We also attempted to pull out other noxious plants in the area. After the food and the exercise we were really content and feeling like the world was a better place, so we lay on the grass and stared at the passing clouds while Latka came to join and purr away. Then Haggi was released from his enclosure and came racing down to see us, this freaked the cat who attacked the 60kg German Shepherd I tried to separate the two and the cat attacked me, I jumped back and landed on a spade putting a neat little hole in my calf, yes I should have been wearing jeans not shorts! However, the only lesson I learnt was that I still hate cats :)

Anyway the biggest reflection for me not just the simple frivolity of spending time with great people, was that if religion is all about penitance and suffering how does one of the most religious countries I have lived in commit gluttony so openly on a holy day? Certainly eye opening for an outsider.


Magdalena said...

You hate cats? And how is that possible, Garfield? :p and it's not gluttony but the celebration of the end of 40-day fasting :D

Garth said...

It appears to be gluttony when there is extensive food remaining and people can only wallow, and this is the feedback from almost everyone. The question is does a celebration need to be extreme? Could it not be a simple thing? And yes I hate cats! Horrible things.

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