Tuesday, August 17, 2010

My (Eastern Euorpean) South

It seems I was working harder on this My South post than I had to.  This was from the very first OkraCola.com post:

My paternal grandfather's family came over from England before this country was founded. He married a lady who was born in India to a very posh British family. So I'm only half Southern by blood. My maternal great-grandparents (all 4) came over from Slovakia in the past 100 or so years so I grew up on fried okra from her backyard as well as pirogies.  So I'm only 1/4 southern by having family down here for a long time depending on how you count it, but my Slovak grandparents adapted quickly to southern living and ideals so I consider myself 100% southern! 

That was eaiser than I thought; but wait, there's more!

Brookside, Alabama is not known to everyone as an Eastern European treasure trove of delicacies and traditions, but that’s what I think of when I go there.  My Great-Grandparents immigrated from what is now the Republic of Slovakia and raised 10 kids in Wylam, Alabama.  My maternal Grandmother married another son of another Slovak immagrant family and they settled in the small town of Brookside.  It is such a small town that when there was still a Catholic Church there my Mom and her whole wedding party got ready at my Grandparents house and walked to the wedding. 

I would always go to my grandmother's house (My grandfather died before I was born) where she would fix fried okra from her garden, make meatloaf and banana pudding, fix me chocolate milk and bake tradtional favorites from the old country.  Most of them involved cheese, potatoes and onion; plentiful and relatively cheap staples.  Pagachi, halushki, pirogies, real food.  Every Christmas she would pack a paper grocery sack full of baked goods and remind us that if we left hungry it was our own fault.

Pagachi is everyone's favorite.  (Here's a recipe that looks close.  Scroll down 2/3rds) It is a yeast bread dough filled with a potato and cheese mixture (sharp cheddar) then rolled flat and round like a pizza, and brushed with oil that had been cooking with onions.  She would always make a special batch for my Uncle Joe because he liked dill baked in his.  To this day pagachi is still part the traditional dinner in our family after Christmas Eve Mass.  We go to my mom's and eat ham and pagachi sandwiches.  Once I made a huge mistake by saying I didn't like the pagachi that was served at a cousin's wedding.  It was too thin and nothing like my grandmothers.  My mom's first cousin heard me say it and said, "don't let Momma (my Great-Aunt) hear you say that."  Oops.

My Paternal Grandmother was born in colonial India to a physician, so it was a whole different vibe.  She never really cooked.  We call it the Allan gene.  People say, "what is the Allan gene?"  Well, it took 6 Indian servants to run the Allan household of 4, so the Allan gene is laziness.  If you visit this blog with any frequency you can attest to the presence of this gene.  My love of sweet tea obviously didn't come from that side of the family.

Eating Christmas Pudding with brandy butter and having Christmas crackers were also normal and expected during the holidays in our house in Walker County, Alabama.  Not only that but also weekly calls from my father's first cousin in Edinburough and yearly visits from him with the cool and tasty stuff we couldn't get.  Now we can get most of it from World Market and Whole Foods.

Thanks again to Wade and Rachel to their contributions and let me know if you have a uniquely Southern raisin'!  drew [at] okra cola (dot) com

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Rachel said...

Great post! My Great-Grandmother lived in Wylam too - I haven't heard that word used in a long time, but I remember the place well.

piglet63699 said...

I miss Grandma's pagachi so so bad!


Anonymous said...

I always motivated by you, your views and attitude, again, thanks for this nice post.

- Murk

Drew said...

I do too Leia. Mom's is close, but it is not the same.