Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Pole-toberfest: Doin' The Dozynki

It is a strange sensation wandering around a nearby community yet somehow getting the feeling that you are a complete outsider.  Going to the Orange County Dozynki (Polish Harvest Festival) at the Pope John Paul II Polish Center in Yorba Linda, CA, I felt very much like a foreigner in my own country.  Yes, it was a strange sensation indeed...but not completely unpleasant.

As guests of Cynthia, my brother's girlfriend and a first-generation American of Polish descent, we were expecting a truly-authentic experience from truly-authentic Poles (trust me, her family was there and their last name is at least eight syllables long and ends in "ski").  As much as she might try to convince us, we were pretty sure that there would NOT be inflatable dart tournaments, nor screendoor-building contests for submarines, nor any rousing games of "hide the kielbasa," nor any other Polish-perjorative hijinks.  Who does she think we are, Yugoslavians?!?!*  

A children's choir performed folk songs while a bubble containing a
mannequin family in traditional Polish garb floated above.

Recognizing it as a scene straight out of It's A Small World, I wanted to do my best to assimilate and join in on the fun as soon as possible.

"You bet your Pierogi I'm Polish!"

I would have started with gastronomically-appropriate attire but I know that 
if I wore this t-shirt, I would immediately be recognized as a complete fraud.

If we couldn't wear the food, we could certainly eat it!

Delicately draped in mosquito netting, the Paczki, prune-filled Polish donuts,
were a sweet treat that were obviously concerned with my digestive health..

Our pal, Lisa, holds a plate of potato pancakes with sour cream and applesauce.
That totally counts as a serving of fruits and vegetables, right???  There were
peirogis too but we ate them so quickly that I didn't get a photo.

Meanwhile, we thought we could have eaten all of those kielbasa but the true Polish
among us made it clear that we got served!  But don't think we gave up;
Cynthia's mom kept bringing more and more to the table and we did NOT want to be rude...

Since we were clearly getting schooled, we figured the best place to go was the Polska Szkola (Polish School).
Knowing that "Polish for Dummies" was two steps above our skill level, we were sent to the remedial class and
given coloring books and buttons that translate to "Somebody Loves Me."

Clothing, food, and school were fine but to get a true taste of Dozynki, dancing was the name of the game!

In the afternoon, we were treated to the terpsichorean stylings of Piast, Las Vegas' preeminent Polish dance troupe.

After dark, the church's multi-purpose room and the outdoor tents transformed into "diskoteks."
Mr. Tiny got seriously funky under the dance lights.

Mary was invited to dance with a fellow who, unsatisfied with just one dance partner,
recruited me and three other people into some kind of ring-around-the-rosy arrangement.
You can tell by Mary's face that she didn't want us horning in on her dancing fun..or maybe that's her "Save Me" face.

My favorite, however, was Poland's answer to Marty and Elayne; they played
everything from standard polkas, to cha-chas, to power pop for the enthusiastic couples.

The Dozynki was a hoot and gave me the opportunity to live out a childhood fantasy.  Growing up, I was so jealous of friends who spoke another language or identified with some sort of ethnic/cultural group.  Wanting the same but lacking ancestors who practiced cultural customs derived from anything more exotic than those seen on The Andy Griffith Show, I was thrilled to be, if only for one day, Polish.


Mr. Tiny

*Our surname is Yugoslavian; seeing as that is no longer a country, the only t-shirt I could honestly wear without feeling like a total poseur would feature the slogan, "Be Proud Of Where You're From," (from what I understand, it's okay to use a preposition at the end of a Slavic sentence) and an amorphous shape with a question mark in the middle.

p.s.  This will be the last post until we return from Japan.  We will catch you on the other side with all kinds of wacky tacky adventures!  BONZAI!!!

1 comment:

  1. Oh boy, you made my morning with this! My parents are from Poland and I was born in Cleveland, where I didn't learn English film before Kindergarten because everyone else was Polish too. I was just telling my students (as we start the multicultural cuisine unit in our Home Ec. Class) about the food I grew up on and the looks of horror my peanut butter on white bread friends would give me when served golabki or Polish bread with sliced kielbasa. Liverwurst was normal lunch fare for me, it didn't occur to me this was weird to anyone. I married a regular Joe American but he is all about my parents and me teaching our little girls to speak Polish and know its culinary delights.