I have lots of memories of my father. Not as many good ones as I’d like. I think of him more since I wrote Passage From England, and I especially think of him around Memorial Day for a host of reasons….his escape from Poland during WWII, of course. The loss of one of his brothers in Dachau. The loss of his father in the Warsaw Uprising at the end of the war (and the concomitant betrayal by the Russians), et cetera with continued grimness.

But this Memorial Day, a funny memory was triggered by the beautiful food at the BBQs I was invited to.

In 2007, my wife and I visited my hometown of Lincoln, England. A friend of my mother’s told us that when she first met my father just after the War, my mother was in the kitchen rolling out the dough for pierogi, a Polish dumpling that resembles a wanton, stuffed with a wide variety of fillings, from traditional sauerkraut and onions to blue berries for dessert pierogi.

On that day, my mother was using ground meat and mushrooms. She had rolled out about thirty of them, some cooking in the pan already. My mother’s friend asked if she were having a party later that day. No, she said, these are for my father’s lunch. The friend nearly fainted to think one man could eat that much.

Just then, my father came into the kitchen, and with the sardonic candor of a refugee said simply, “You have to eat to live.”

I thought of that line this weekend with so much wonderful food surrounding me at the BBQs. “I have to eat to live,” I said, smiling as I justified the gorging I was doing.

Unfortunately, no Pierogi on the Barbee this year.  Maybe next year.

Check out the Gallery for photos of a selection of the Memorial Day Treats.


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