Thursday, May 20, 2010

Back to My Roots

Once again, I went digging in the Left Hand Valley Courier archives to see what other food articles I've written. This one appeared in 2007, as part of my Vicinity and Beyond series that looks at interesting businesses outside the normal delivery zone of the newspaper.

I grew up in the Chicago area, where ethnic food was easy to find. Moving to Colorado was a bit of a culture shock. Not only were the regular grocery stores bereft of many items I considered normal fare, but there weren't ethnic neighborhoods or ethnic markets nearby.

It took me a while to venture far enough to find those sorts of places. Now, I know where to find more and more unusual ingredients. It's not a short jaunt as it was when I lived in Chicago, but it's a worthwhile trip when I'm craving the authentic ethnic foods that I haven't figured out how to make at home.

Vicinity And Beyond: Roots

When you think of ethnic food, what does it mean to you? Are you thinking of Indian or Chinese or Thai? Do you think about food that’s foreign to you? Or do you think about the food of your ancestors, whoever they may be?

Strictly defined, I suppose ethnic food would be anything eaten by people from a specific country or region. Sort of the opposite of the recent trend for “fusion” cuisine where you find chorizo-stuffed eggrolls and pizza topped with gyros meat and tzatziki sauce.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with fusion food – if you go back far enough, it’s all fusion anyway. Tomatoes, so often associated with Italian food, is really a “new world” plant, and the traditional meal of corned beef and cabbage is more American than Irish.

But if it’s what you grew up with, and what your parents and grandparents remember from when they were young, chances are that it’s more authentically ethnic than mac ‘n cheese.

For me, the ethnic cuisine I grew up with was mostly Polish with some Czech and German thrown in to confuse me. I grew up on foods like pierogi (stuffed pasta, something like ravioli), galumbki (stuffed cabbage rolls) and czarnina (soup made from – well, you really don’t want to know).

Growing up in Chicago, ethnic food was easy to buy. There were whole neighborhoods strewn with restaurants and delis and bakeries and mom-and-pop grocery stores that catered to culinary needs of the local ethnic groups.

Since moving to this area, I’ve come to realize that if I want some of those ethnic delights, it means some travel to find what I need.

So, it was with great joy that I found Sawa Meat & Sausage in Wheat Ridge. Yes, it’s a bit of a drive, but if you’re craving Polish foods – some imported from Poland – this place can satisfy that craving.

Sawa is nestled not-so-scenically next to a casket market. I’m not kidding – could I make something like that up? What it lacks in outdoor ambiance, it makes up for with indoor foreign-ness. Many of the packaged goods are labeled entirely in Polish, making cooking directions for the convenience foods a little less convenient.

Other packaged goods are easier to deal with. Those packed for export have instructions in English, and things in jars – like pickles, sauerkraut and juices – need no instructions.

A freezer case has an array of pierogis, and these aren’t Mrs. T’s. Nor did they have to travel from as far as Poland. Last time I checked, the frozen pierogis are made in one of the Polish neighborhoods in Chicago. Ah, the taste of home.

It doesn’t end with packaged and frozen fare. The meat department has a wide array of smoked meats as well as cheeses. While it all looks familiar, most of these aren’t quite the same as what you’d find at your regular grocery store.

Not sure if you like smoked garlic sausage or Podlaski cheese? If you ask about the flavors, chances are you’ll be offered a sample. Or just take a chance. The prices are more than reasonable, considering this place has a bit of a corner on the market.

1 comment:

pepsakoy said...

Thanks for your visit and comment on my blog..your recipe is wonderful and made my husband happy ! Thanks for it..:)

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