“Marcin, I’m new to Polish. You’re going to have to say it again.”

One of the developers on my client’s team has gotten used to hearing this from me.

Each time I pair program with Marcin, he teaches me how to say something in Polish. It started the day I asked Marcin to help me learn to pronounce my friend’s last name. He panicked and shushed me after my first attempt to pronounce it because, evidently, it means a bad thing in Polish if you pronounce it wrong.

Two weeks later, we were learning to pronounce “paczki.” It’s a polish food that another client had brought in to share with the group. Paczkis (is that how you pluralize things in Polish?) are soft donuts filled with custard or fruit compote, and they are eaten especially on Fat Tuesday and Fat Thursday. They originated as a way to use up all the flour, eggs, and sugar in the house prior to the beginning of Lent.

When I found out this information, a light bulb clicked on in my head:

“I know what this is!!! This is Polish king cake!!!!”

To be fair, the tradition probably originated in Poland, and the king cake that every Louisianan eats on Mardi Gras is really the french/creole version of paczkis.

I find this fascinating. See, I have always considered myself a child of divergent roots. My father and his family go generations back in the bayou country of Louisiana. They’ve been raising rice, crawfish, and beef for as long as anybody down there can remember. Meanwhile, my mother’s parents are both Polish. My grandmother speaks Polish, but she doesn’t remember much about Poland: she was only fourteen when her family fled, and she was only sixteen when the Nazis took her. My mother was born in Germany after my grandparents got out of the camps, and my grandfather hustled them all to New York as fast as he could pull it off. My mother grew up in an immigrant neighborhood in the Bronx, about as culturally distant from the Louisiana bayou as you could get in the United States.

AND YET. And yet there is, after all, a common thread in the two strands of my heritage.


Can I justify eating this dessert as honoring my roots? Because if so, I just found my guiltless route to becoming a sphere.

My paczki had apple filling, which also happens to be my favorite flavor of king cake. My whole life makes sense now. The whole thing, y’all.

Don’t worry: I have not converted completely to a paczki diet (yet). I prefer the cleaner stuff. I get really excited every time I walk into work and see a bunch of people eating cereal, because this means that the catered breakfast is not to their taste.

When this happens, it’s usually because the catered breakfast consists of chicken, turkey, kale salad, or black beans. I like to eat those things. I end up pulling out tupperwares and saving the leftovers to eat for lunch.

As a result, I don’t have to buy many groceries. In fact, I don’t think I have bought groceries for any meal other than dinner in a long time.

I don’t even buy groceries for dinner that often. At least once a week, some work engagement results in a trip to Gilt Bar (American food) or Folklore (Argentinian food). I have learned which items on the menu fit my macros**.

**I also did not come up with this name, people.

Of the two, Folklore is my favorite. They have amazing chicken and vegetables, and the food is super-authentic, right down to the fact that they don’t understand salad. See, in my experience, salad is not really a thing in South America.

So when you buy a salad there, you generally receive a plate that looks like the result of the following conversation:

Chef, to someone who understands salad: What is a salad?

Person who understands salad: Oh! It’s raw lettuce on a plate with some other vegetables…maybe onions, tomato, that type of thing.

Chef: Psh, that’s easy. *throws literally lettuce, tomato wedges, and onion wedges on a plate* Salad!

I spent some time in my relative youth traveling around Morocco, and salad always looked like this there, too. My traveling partner and I got used to Moroccan “salad”: a plate with four neat quadrants of tomato, onion, cucumber, and olives. Luckily, my travel partner only wanted the tomato and onion, and I only wanted the cucumber and olives, so it worked out perfectly. We would eat our favorite parts of each of our salads and then switch plates.

I still do “salad” like that, actually. I will walk into Mariano’s grocery store, fill a styrofoam bowl with cucumber, beets, and black olives, stick a lid on it, and eat it at home. It’s delicious. It’s nutritious. It’s cheap and low-effort.

And, if I felt so inclined, I’d still have room for dessert :).

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