Last Monday I had the opportunity of working at the Astrodome of Parma, in our kitchen for as you like it catering, without my normal crew. It was okay, because the staff I worked with was all family. We were making Punczki. That may seem like no big deal, but it was. It was to the people who assembled and made them, it was to the people and family that received them, it was to the people and family that ate them.
Punczki is a jelly filled dumpling (mom says that the only filling is plum ((prune)) or apricot) that is deep fried in lard and suet. This delicious, puffy, sweet doughnut signifies the beginning of lent, a period of reflection and sacrifice. By clearing out your pantry of these staples it was to help ease the temptation of cooking rich meals that relied on those animal fats.
The actual recipe that we used was from my father’s mother, Busha. Bush didn’t speak English very well, and as a kid, neither did I. My dad wrote down the recipe as recited by my Grandmother. My mom, a great cook in her own right, felt the need to get further input from Busha. So mom refined the recipe with more instructions. I remember the first time my mother made them. I was about 10 or 12. She started early in the morning preparing the dough. It took her much longer than she realized, because the measurements given by her mother-in-law did not use your traditional kitchen utensils. 1 cup, actually translated to 1 1/2 – 1 3/4, because Busha used her coffee cup as measurement.
Mom was elbow deep in rising doughnuts by the time I got home from school. She was amazed that she went through all her flour in the house. Well, I got recruited to start deep frying. In between batches, the doughnuts needed to be finished with granulated sugar. My sisters got recruited for that. As more and more family started arriving home, more and more punczki were making their way out to family and friends. My entire family looks forward to this time of year.
Which brings me to my point, this year my family worked with me to make the punczki. We used the old recipe, we talked of times we recalled, we talked of current events, we talked of our hopes for the future. We put a part of history into each of those doughnuts. Not every doughnut was perfect, but every doughnut was made with the best of wishes. As always, family and friends were contacted, called, and delivered the little delicacies. As I caught my breath from the days events, I realized that this is what I love about cooking/baking.
This recipe connected me to my Busha, it connected me to my parents, it connected me to my sisters and brothers, it connected me to my friends, it connected me to other friends, it connected me to those that taught my grandmother, but most of all, it connected me to some fresh family. This year my nephew Sam and niece Sydney were introduced to a family tradition. I don’t know if they got it, but I sure did.
That is what we are about here at as you like it catering. Here at the Astrodome, you share my family, and that transcribes to memorable events. Your guests are our guests.