My mom and stepfather brought over a bunch of stuff for Fakesgiving on Saturday. If you were here, you probably enjoyed the pies or the cheesecake. What you didn’t get to enjoy was the babka. I hid it, guarding it like the crown jewels (well, better than the crown jewels if you saw the news this morning), to save it for the kids for breakfast this week.
Growing up, I was not a fan. It was an odd tasting bread, you couldn’t make grilled cheese with it, and to me, it kind of reminded me that my parents were divorced. My dad was Irish, my mom is Irish, and babka was a word we never heard. Until my stepdad came.
Bob is Polish, and his mother, Grandmom Holak, was a culinary expert at all things edible and Polish. Her name became synonymous with pierogies and galumpkis. Kielbasa became a staple at our house – boiled, fried, served with sauerkraut. It was a whole new experience.
It wasn’t until I was an adult that I thought I’d give babka another try. Bob picked it up for us, along with a couple of dozen of pierogies, which he orders from a group of Polish nuns. It was a late morning, so instead of eggs or pancakes, babka sounded like a good, hearty breakfast. We all grabbed a slice, wrapped it in a napkin, and raced out the door. The cheese, creamy and sweet, broke through the light, flavorful bread. Not a crumb was left on any napkin, and Granuaile made me promise to save her more for an after school snack.
I have to tell you, though, babka still kind of reminds me that my parents divorced. But instead of it making me feel sad or bitter, it makes me think of the tremendous appreciation I found for my stepfather after I grew up. He is the grandfather I never knew he could be, as we grew up with the man who worked hard and seemed to have little time for little kids. He has devoted not only 36 years to loving my mom and raising my sister, Megan, but he has made my mom’s recovery his life for the past three years. And he has become every bit as good a cook as Grandmom Holak.
So today, I’m thankful for cheese babka. And all the things it reminds me of.