A Taste of Home at the Polish Bazaar

I spent weeks taking scuba diving classes and when it came time to practice our skills in the water (first a pool, then the open water), they paired me with a beautiful girl with a ready smile. Lucky for me...she was an Oceanography major at the University of Washington, who took up diving to study our underwater habitat. Ala and I became lifelong friends...and over the years, her family has become an extension of my own.

We have many treasured memories together, but what I love the most, is her family's connection to the home country. One by one they emigrated from Poland. First Ala's mother arrived, and her sisters followed soon after. After a few years and the addition of spouses and children, they began to build a community. Poles from the home country found each other and together, they maintain many of their cultural traditions.

The gathering spot for these festivities?

Look no further than The Polish Home Association over on Capitol Hill.

Oh, if those walls could talk! Ala's father built the bar in the basement, and every Friday night you can satisfy your Polish food cravings with pierogi, stuffed cabbage and borscht. Ice cold vodka and imported beer are never far behind. Before long, you just may find yourself belting out a rousing chorus of songs from the hill country!

Yes, the Polish Home Association is where Ala was married. And in the weeks leading up to her wedding, the ladies would prepare food in the large commercial kitchen. I came to help. Whether I was washing dishes or carefully pinching the tops of pierogi dumplings, being surrounded by these women, animated and talking nonstop--some in English, most in Polish...it's one of my fondest memories.

Polish weddings are quite different than American weddings. After the ceremony, we arrived at the Polish Home for cocktail hour. 350 people descended on the lone bartender and with a line snaking half way around the room, I jumped behind the bar and gave him a hand. Cocktail hour was followed by a long and leisurely dinner with delicious bites from the home country...all prepared by hand. Roladen--thinly sliced lengths of beef, smeared with mustard, salt and pepper, lined with a pickle spear, rolled like a stuffed cabbage. This is seared and then baked. Delicious.

For three weeks that summer, the women who gathered in the basement kitchen made over 1,500 pierogi. At the wedding, they were gone in a flash!

After the dinner hour, came the video presentations, dancing, and then....dessert hour. This included the wedding cake AND desserts made by the ladies of the Polish Home Association (poppy seed stuffed cookies and cakes, etc.)

American wedding receptions are typically 3-4 hours (to make room for the wedding following this one....), but Polish weddings are an all day...and night affair. Dancing and drinking went well into the night and the ladies had a plan for this. After the dessert hour, tables were spread with yet another course! Just a little something in case you were hungry after all that dancing...I left around midnight (10 hours after arriving) but rumor has it that the festivities (and more food!) went on until well after 4:00 am. I have no doubt.

Today, the Polish Home comes alive again with their Annual Bazaar. The ladies are busy months beforehand, importing cut crystal and a wide variety of the famous Polish pottery. Bargains are here, for sure! Ala's mom imports treasured foods from Poland. For one day, everything from sausages, cheeses, candy and snacks can be found right here. And if it's pierogi you're craving, you can pick up a bag of the frozen dumplings, or dine on site. Today, the kitchen is filled with prized family recipes and treasured tastes from the home country.

Hint: Keep an eye out for the bright yellow, spiral-bound cookbook. All the best recipes are collected in this not-so-humble gem.

If you want to jump in on the fun, here's the details:

46th Spring Bazaar at PHA
Saturday, March 15th
Noon - 7 pm

Location: The Polish Home, 1714 18th Avenue, Seattle.

Admission and Parking are free.

Yes, this is the 46th Annual Spring Polish Bazaar! It is a yearly event organized by the Ladies Auxiliary.

The booths upstairs will offer Polish crystal bowl and vases, Bloeslawiec pottery, amber and silver jewlery, pottery, crafts, books, Easter eggs and much more.

Downstairs you can enjoy traditional Polish dishes of pierogi, sausage, cabbage rolls, etc. served by the young generation of waiters clad in Polish folk costumes. You can also buy home made desserts and pastries. Most of the Puget Sound area Polish organizations will have their booths or posted info. This is usually a quite crowded event, so come early!