Sunday, October 5, 2008

An Ethnic Treat for the Masses

This past week has been somewhat of a doozy. To supplement my regular schedule of classes, homework, and work, it seemed all sorts of meetings sprouted up throughout the week. Not to mention the fact that I spent the better part of two days creating, editing, and formatting my poster for this Tuesday's Honor Scholar Senior Thesis Poster Presentation. That's right, everything thesis has been thrust to the forefront of my life.

What goes into a simple dough

For those of you who can't stop by this Tuesday evening (although you should if you can, 6 p.m. in the Julian atrium), let me give you a run down and an update on the status of my project. Right now my tentative title is Pierogi Make Me Polish: Food and Constructions of Identity. Not to pat myself on the back too much, but I'm quite proud of the main title. Alliteration, reference to a fabulous dumpling... what else could make my project more enticing to the (hopefully) hoards of people meandering through the poster presentation?

Oh, that's right. Cookies.

Cherry pastry filling adds sweetness

By pure providence, when my mom brought my grandma's recipe box down here last weekend, I found her recipe card for Kolocky, a Polish version of what seems to be a pretty ubiquitous Eastern European treat of buttery cookie folded around sweet fruit filling. I made a test batch last week, and boy were they good, and especially so for someone who generally frowns upon using fruit as the main sweetener in a dessert.

Did I mention it really is a simple dough?

I'll be making about twelve dozen of these babies over the next few days leading up to Tuesday evening, and I'll have them available alongside my poster. I'm considering the Kolocky the edible embodiment of the three parts of my thesis:

1) Food and Ethnic Identity -- Kolocky are a Polish cookie;
2) Food and Personal Identity -- these particular Kolocky come from a recipe handed down to me via combination of my grandma's recipe card of ingredients and my mom's verbal instructions for making them;
3) Food and Community Identity -- I'll be serving these Kolocky to the Honor Scholar community at large.

This should help you visualize the assembly process.

Okay, so that last one is a bit of a stretch. But I'll have a whole stack of blank recipe cards and informational flyers for interested parties to actually submit their own family or favorite recipes to the Honor Scholar Community Cookbook I'll be creating as a part of my thesis. So really it all balances out.

Ta-da! Tasty Polish perfection.

Before I relay this incredibly simple and incredibly tasty cookie recipe, let me leave you with a few questions to get you thinking about the different parts of my thesis:

How does food help construct your identity?
How did immigrant women respond to new culinary limitations in the US?
How did they create the foods of home in this new land?
How did food serve as both momento and ethnic marker?
At what point do the foods people eat cease to describe what, ethnically, they are and instead describe who they are?
What foods do you cook and eat?
What do they say about you?
What community cookbooks are on your shelves?
Are you a member of these communities?
What are your favorite recipes?

I'd love to hear any and all thoughts on these questions, and again, stop by the poster presentation Tuesday if you're able. Otherwise just enjoy the cookies.

Straight from the recipe box

from the combined knowledge of my grandma and mom

1 lb oleo or butter
8 oz. cream cheese
5 tbsp powdered sugar
3 c flour
fruit pastry filling of your choice (I'll be serving up cherry, raspberry, and apricot)

Bring the oleo and cream cheese to room temperature. Cream them together, then mix in the powdered sugar and flour. Move the resulting dough into a zipperlock pastic bag and let it chill for at least two hours (this makes it much easier to work with).
On an extremely well-floured board or pastry cloth, use an extremely well-floured rolling pin to roll the dough quite thin. My grandma's official suggestion is rolling it "almost as thin as paper." Using a pizza cutter, slice the dough into squares about 2"x2".
Transfer the dough squares to a parchment papered cookie sheet. Using teaspoons or a small spatula, place pastry filling on each square from corner to corner diagonally. Fold the filling-less corners into the cookie's center, creating what looks like a flattened canoli (if you visualize food like other food).
Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 15 minutes, until golden brown. Try not to burn yourself as you anxiously nibble an oven-hot cookie.

1 comment:

Amy's Mom said...

They look so pretty. Can't wait to try some on Tuesday!