Thursday, January 6, 2011

Somebody PLEASE steal the Kiszka...

One of the greatest mysteries of my life involves sausage. Hey, I'm Polish. Just go with it.

Every Saturday morning my mother would dutifully rise from her slumber, pull out her trusty frying pan, and remove a sausage from the refrigerator that defied description: bulbous, dark, and grotesque, the sausage (at least five inches in diameter) looked like the innards of a pig. I always imagined it was the pig's spleen, though I have no idea what a pig spleen looks like…but I wasn't too far off, apparently. The sausage was a conglomeration of pig parts: snouts, ears, feet, organs (spleen?), and blood, mixed with seasonings not heard of and a healthy portion of barley, and finally sealed up in the intestinal membrane of something very large. She would break the sausage open as she cooked it and crumble it like ground meat, and as it sizzled the house filled with an aroma that can only be described in terms too unseemly for a genteel blog.

Kiszka. Poland's answer to the blood sausage. A monstrosity to a child of tender years, no matter how much ketchup my father squirted on it, and a perpetual mystery: why would anyone eat the darn thing?  And just as important: who would ever steal such a thing?!? (see video below)

"You don't know what's good," he would say as he scooped up the ground-up pig parts smothered in Heintz 57 on a slice of rye toast. While I would never venture to disrespect my father, I must state at this juncture of my life that yes, I did know what was good. It was not kiszka.

Years later I would learn that children are born with an abundance of taste buds, very sensitive and pristine taste buds that discern the subtlest of flavors. That explains why things that seemed so incredibly putrid as children (liver, cabbage, brussel sprouts, etc.) suddenly are tolerable and even delicious as adults - enough of our taste buds have been fried away by heat, time, hot sauce and Jack Daniel's to kill the underlying flavors. The older we get, the fewer taste buds we have. My grandmother, in the last ten years of her life, only wanted pizza and hot chicken wings, and for good reason - it was the only food the poor old gal could taste.

Despite anatomical realities, kiszka remains elusive to me. Perhaps it is the smell of rotting foodstuffs that repulses me…or the color of bloody gastric extracts that adorn its unseemly appearance. I recently took a mouthful just to see if my tongue is old and tired enough, and discovered it is not. My father, a man who for much of my life seemed invincible and superhuman, remains so as I reflect on my inability to prove my Polish manhood.

Just as the degeneration of our ability to taste allows for an expanded palate, as I age I see the temptations of life deaden my senses and lure me away from truth. I am quite sure I am not alone. Can you imagine the reaction of viewers if some of the programs on television today aired thirty, forty or fifty years ago? What is commonplace today would have been unthinkable then. The lyrics of music, the content of movies, the literature we are exposed to -- we have become numb, it seems, unable to taste the bitterness of it. Violence on the screen and in games have created a generation immune to it - movies must push the envelope to get nary a gasp. Violence, foul language, contraception, abortion, licentious behaviors, adultery - our appetites have changed. We no longer recoil at their bitter taste, their unpleasant odor.

Prayer, fasting, chastity and obedience can reawaken our slumbering senses.

So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma. Immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be mentioned among you, as is fitting among holy ones, no obscenity or silly or suggestive talk, which is out of place, but instead, thanksgiving. Be sure of this, that no immoral or impure or greedy person, that is, an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty arguments, for because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the disobedient. So do not be associated with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth. Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention the things done by them in secret; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore, it says: "Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light."
Ephesians 5:1-14
As we reduce the distractions of life, contemplate the goodness of God, imitate Jesus, and pour over the scriptures our tastes will once again change - but rather than the degeneration our culture draws us to, our senses will conform to God's will and will awaken from slumber and darkness. The goodness of God and his creation will define beauty, not the vanity of the world.

Evil and sin are all around us; may God bless us with a healthy distaste. May our senses be heightened to recognize their putrid odor…and if you need a primer on the smell of evil and sin go ahead and fry yourself a big old kiszka.


  1. What a fantastic corollary and a great post to start the new year, hoping there'll be many more than there were the year past (and you've plenty of fodder to post considering that the Caps are going to win it all this year, finally). MY Kiszka, growing up in Maryland for the most part, was the dreaded ... SCRAPPLE... oh, how I remember my dad stuffing me with those little buckwheat and pig-leftovers before heading out onto the bay to go fishing... ooohhhhhh...

  2. a very thought provoking post.
    I was watching a show on TV just the other day, and i was just sick about the content..
    I will not mention anyone's name, but they ruined mine!
    May God have mercy on us!

  3. Chris - thanks for the encouragement. I set some "attainable goals" for 2011 for the blog - at least 2 posts a week, more if able, but not less...
    I do believe scrapple is the mutt cousin of kiszka. I understand that too much of it can cause delirium later in life, like thinking one's sports team is good enough for the sad.

  4. Good and Holy Ellen (as opposed to you know who...), I know whereof you speaketh...

    We need another Mother Angelica.

  5. I was just playing this on my headphones, my wife heard it leaking out and started to sing along!

    She is from Detroit.

    Scrapple: sounds way better than it tastes.

  6. I'll take your word on the Scrapple and refrain. I am glad to hear my Detroit sister recalls one of the greatest Polkas of all time!

  7. Hello David! I happened upon your blog as I was searching for images of gratitude, and the picture of the name tag (Hello, my name is gratitude) popped up...I have a blog dedicated to gratefulness, where I post at least one thing a day that I am gratful, of course, I read your post on gratitude, and I liked it a lot...and then I spotted the work 'kiszka' on the right hand side of the page...and that peaked my interest, too, because I am also Polish, I was born in Hamtramck, Michigan! I have to agree with you about eating kiszka, I have never touched the stuff, and don't plan to...although many of my close relatives swear by the stuff!! I am content with kapusta, golumbki, pierogis and keilbasa!! Sto lat, David!


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