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Monday, April 13, 2009

Happy Dyngus Day!!!

Eggs may be rolling along the White House Lawn but, in some regions of the United States, Polish communities are celebrating Dyngus Day today. Dingus Day, as it is sometimes also spelled, is a Polish holiday which I would have to describe as a fun day of celebration in between Sadie Hawkins Day and St. Patrick's Day. Since I'm not of Polish descent, I can only go by what I read and to me it sounds like a day of frolic, mischief and drinking!!!

Dyngus Day is a post-Easter festivity always celebrated on Easter Monday. As near as I can tell, there's seems to be a discrepancy as to what US city is the Dyngus Day Capital of the World. It seems to be a toss up between Buffalo, New York and South Bend, Indiana. The only real information I could muster up in South Bend was the legend of the Pussywillow, however, I sure did find some dousing going on in Buffalo.

The tradition began when farm boys in Poland wanted to attract notice from the girls of their choice. It was custom to throw water and hit the girls on their legs with twigs or pussywillows.  Cologne was used instead of water by the more gallant lads. The ladies would reciprocate by throwing dishes & crockery and Tuesday was their day of revenge, imitating the same tactics. source
According to Polish legend several baby kittens fell into a raging river while chasing butterflies. The mother cat sadly wept at the river’s edge, pleading for help for her drowning kittens. The willows heard her mournful cries and swept their long graceful branches into the water. The kittens grabbed the branches, held on tightly and were safely brought to shore. Every spring, from that day on, the willows sprouted fur-like buds where the tiny kittens once clung.
More recently Dyngus Day has evolved yet again in to a celebration of Polish heritage with great feasts of Polish food, plenty to drink, and parties running well in to the night. And fortunately for us, South Bend is one of the few places in the US where Dyngus Day is a major holiday. source

The origin of Dyngus Day is steeped in legend. I've left a link below should you choose to explore this quaint custom. There is one notion that appears to be echoed universally, not only is Martha Stewart Polish on Dingus Day, everyone is Polish on Dyngus Day! That being the case, I thought I would share an explanation of Dyngus Day along with a few recipes from a cookbook titled The Art of Polish Cooking by Alina Zeranska.

The Art of Polish Cooking
The Easter season ends on the Monday after Easter which is a traditionally a holiday in Poland. People are tired from too much festivity and food. But a refreshing surprise, a splash of cold water may wait for them at every city corner, or even a sprinkle in their own beds. Boys walk from house to house, and douse and sprinkle girls with water. They sing songs, play pranks and enjoy this humorous custom. The girls expect this fun tradition and reciprocate. This old tradition called Smigus or Dyngus provides plenty of fun for the young, but worries the housewives who waxed the floors with such dedication. How would you like a shower from the nearest balcony over your Easter bonnet? At present, fragrant cologne is used instead of water.

I've chosen two recipes to share today. The first recipe I couldn't resist is called Salmon "From The Water." Not only does it "sop" up some of those leftover hard boiled eggs, it fits in quite nicely with the theme of Dyngus Day. The second recipe I also couldn't turn down is called Scalloped Potatoes Jefferson. Today is the birth date of Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson was a prolific cook and it was Jefferson who brought saffron and many other spices to North America for the first time. In his garden in Monticello he grew asparagus, five kinds of endive, twelve varieties of greens, two types of celery, three types of cabbage and two kinds of peppers. This was indeed advanced gardening for his time. It is said when he was minister to the court of Louis XVI of France, he learned French cooking to perfection. In the book Bull Cook (1969) by Herter, the author credits Thomas Jefferson with the invention of scalloped potatoes. He also offers the recipe for eight servings. Unfortunately, for some, the recipe is written in paragraph form. I attempted to break it down but it took away a bit of the flavor so it is included as written.

Salmon From the Water
Losos z wody
1-1/2 pounds salmon steaks
3 cups Vegetable Fish Bouillon
2 tbs. butter, melted
2 hard-boiled eggs, quartered
1 lemon
1 tbs. chopped green parsley
Place salmon steaks in boiling bouillon and cook on low heat for 20 minutes. Remove steaks gently from the kettle. Place on a warmed dish. Sprinkle with butter. Garnish with eggs, lemon slices, and green parsley. Serve with boiled potatoes and green peas. Serves 4.

Polish Vegetable Fish Bouillon (Wywar z wloszczyzny i ryby) Place 1 onion, quartered, 1 large carrot, cut up, 1 stalk celery, cut up, 1 parsley root, cut up, 3 peppercorns, 1 bay leaf, salt to taste and fish trimmings and head in 4 cups cold water. Bring to boil, then simmer for 30 minutes. Strain.

Scalloped Potatoes Jefferson
Peel raw potatoes and slice four cupfuls of them about one-eighth of an inch thick. Dry the potatoes thoroughly between a clean towel. Take four heaping tablespoons of butter and melt it in a frying pan with medium heat. Add three heaping tablespoons of flour, stir and mix into butter until smooth and creamy. Remove from the stove and add one cup of cold water. Stir the cold water in well until thoroughly mixed. Never use warm water. Add one-eighth teaspoon of ground saffron and salt and pepper to taste. If the ground saffron is not available, use the shredded. Simply grind up the shredded saffron by crumbling it between your fingers but use one-fourth teaspoon instead of one-eighth. (If your local grocer does not have saffron, you can buy it for 25 cents a box by writing to any large spicemaker. Saffron is the dried center or stamen of a special crocus flower that grows in Spain. Before it was used for coloring and seasoning food, way back in the thirteenth century it was used as a powder for women's faces to give them a suntanned look.) Put back on the stove and bring to a slow boil, stirring well all of the time. Then remove from the stove. Milk is never used in the making of scalloped potatoes. When milk is baked it becomes lumpy and gives the dish not only poor taste but a lumpy poor appearance. The butter in the original recipe lends all the dairy richness to the dish that is needed. Now take a baking dish and generously grease it with butter. Put in a layer of potatoes and scatter a few finely chopped onions over them and finely chopped green peppers and pieces of mushrooms. Then pour the sauce over the layer. Repeat until the dish is full.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 2 hours. Do not turn the potatoes with a spoon while cooking. These are scalloped potatoes that simply cannot be equaled and a great delicacy.

For buying purposes you will need the following quantities of the following items:
one onion 2-1/2 inches in diameter
one medium sized green pepper
one 8 ounce can of mushrooms, stems & pieces.
If saffron becomes a problem to get, the golden yellow pollen from lilies, tulips, or a flower dried, works just as well.

Well, there you have it. Happy Dyngus Day and Jefferson Day. I must mention, if you remember last year I planted saffron crocus bulbs in Pennsylvania. I just got back Easter Sunday from PA and sadly my saffron crocus bulbs seemed to have disappeared. I have no idea what happened to them. It doesn't appear they have been dug up. I was afraid to dig down not to upset them however, I am very upset. When I mentioned to someone in PA that I had planted them, they said they wouldn't grow. According to what I've read about Pennsylvania agriculture history, Saffron bulbs once grew there as a minor cash crop. I will have to get in touch with the local cooperative extension when I am there on a regular basis which I hope will be in the next two months, Good Lord willing and the creek don't freeze! For now, I wait patiently to see if my saffron crocuses pop!!! BTW, the daffodils were there to greet me:)

P.S. Don't forget not only is April National Pecan Month, tomorrow is Pecan Day. Last year I celebrated with a Nanaimo Bar recipe.

Resources
1. Traditions of a Polish Easter
2. The Origins of Dyngus Day
3. Polish Spring Delights (recipes)
4. History of the White House Easter Egg Roll

7 comments:

  1. Hi Louise! Always so interesting to stop here! xox

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  2. Some fun activities on Dyngus Day! :-)

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  3. Never heard of Dyngus Day before. I agree, there's always something new to learn here!

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  4. Thanks Maryann. Put the coffee on, I'm dropping by for your array of delectables and creativity!

    Oh duckie, you make a "mean" brisket! I can't help anticipating your next Penelope’s Pie Shop pie. Oh what will it be I wonder???

    Hi Sidney. I took a blurb and ran with it. It was a hoot!

    Me either Kathy, You just never know what you will find in a book of cookery now do you?

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  5. I must personally thank Tom Jefferson for introducing us to saffron! One more reason to celebrate his birthday!

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  6. I'm sure Jefferson would welcome the praise T.W., but, could you wait a few millions years to thank him:)

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Through this wide opened gate,
none came too early,
none returned too late.

Thanks for dropping in...Louise

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