Though I am a dues-paying member of the Casimir Polaski Post #1 of Polish Amrican Veterans in New London, Conn., I don't have a drop of Polish blood in me as far as genealogical records can tell. This must be readily apparent since when I visit the Baltic Deli or Euromart on Dot Ave or D&J Market on Boston Street, all grocers deep within Dorchester's notorious Polish Triangle.
Before I can utter a word, the counter help, who have been speaking Polish to everyone else in the store, addresses me in English. I'm not complaining, but I am wondering how they can tell. What inborn gland activates this Polish radar?
Easter kielbasa is a traditional Polish dish and, with Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox Easters all having recently passed, I thought I could score a good deal on a two-foot link of the genuine article. I went to one of these stores and was immediately told when I stepped up to the sausage case, "We don't use Mexican pork." I was told this in English.
I wasn't thinking about trichinosis or Legionnaire's Disease (another fraternity to which I belong) when I considered what to have for dinner tonight. Now, I was suspicious. The lovely lady behind the counter said, "We've been getting a lot of questions this morning because of the Globe article about a swine flu epidemic in Mexico. Now I start every transaction by stating our pork is not Mexican. We guarantee none of it comes from south of the Ohio River. There are no worries here in the Polish Triangle." That was good, if not necessarily fresh, news.
"Can I have two feet of kielbasa?" I asked. "Of course," she answered as she proceeded to separate two curled, pink links from a rope of ground meat and spices smoked in natural casing.
"Is the casing imported?" I inquired, feeling mischievous. "No, sir," she replied, "This sterilized intestine comes only from USDA certified Massachusetts hogs. If not, you can rest assured, the donor came from Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, or upstate New York. We like to use trusted, local suppliers. We may depend on Pennsylvania suppliers but you won't find Maine casings here. Mainers only know how to fish lobsters and grow potatoes, but their hog raising practices don't measure up to close scrutiny as far as we're concerned."
The kielbasa weighed down my satchel with pure, local, Polish goodness that didn't add a smidge of gravity or drag as I pedalled my way home. I put the kielbasa in my refrigerator for later use but even with the fridge door closed the lady of house said, "You've been shopping. Something smells good here." Indeed it did. Something was good in the house and it was free of the fear factor of impending disease.