Tuesday, July 16, 2013

SHMEE-gooss DIN-gooss makes me SM-ile


There are some things in life I that leave me wide-eyed and jaw-dropped, not because of their incredibility, but rather because they are new.  “How could I have possibly lived on this Earth for 35 years and not known that?!?” I have been known to shout, while shaking my fists and knocking my head.
And that was just the reaction I had when I heard about Smigus Dyngus.  Because if there are two things that I love, it’s Polish heritage and water fights.  The thought of combining them both in the honor of Spring nearly makes my head spin.  (There is a casserole involved, too, but we’ll save that for later.)
Easter traditions are dear to my heart, mostly because revolving around the amazing food we eat.  Easter Sunday is a veritable feast of kielbasa, babka (sweet Easter bread), ham, soft cheese, eggs, and enough beet horseradish to wash it all down.  Before eating the eggs, we all choose our favorite one and tap the ends together, to see who will get their Easter wish, similar to a turkey’s wishbone.  This Polish tradition has trickled into many other cultures because it’s fun.  And fun is good.
But there’s another Polish tradition that I hope makes its way to every happy household.  It’s called Smigus Dyngus and it’s a celebration on Easter Monday.  Boys are supposed to douse the girls with buckets of water, where the water signified a good rains for the agricultural season.  Girls could make them stop by offering painted eggs to the boys, signifying a good harvest and healthy offspring.  It is said that attractive girls would be continually drenched throughout the day.  There is also a tradition of boys switching girls with the braches of pussy willow trees, but of course I’m not telling my kids about that part.  Apparently, on Easter Tuesday (or the day after Smigus Dyngus), the girls have their opportunity to seek sweet revenge on the boys by firing up their own super soakers.  Personally, I don’t think I could wait that long.  If someone woke me from a deep slumber with a bucket of water, an egg would be the last thing they would get…
Smigus Dyngus is celebrated in some American cities as Dyngus Day, with Buffalo, New York hosting the largest one.  The streets are lined with polka bands, delicious foods, and there’s just a giant water fight, with both genders equally soaking each other.  What a fabulous way to welcome Spring and nearby Summer which has its fair share of water fights ‘round these parts.  Especially if mom is in charge of the hose.
This year, I plan to indulge a bit in my new-found tradition strictly for educational purposes.   I plan on reviewing the true meaning of Easter with my children, tap our eggs together, and educate them about the importance of celebrating their heritage because if we don’t continue them on, traditions will dry up as fast as the water that I will throw all over them.  
(That part about education?  Kinda kidding.)
And hey!  Here’s a recipe for a drool-worthy Smigus Dyngus casserole, from About.com!
Smigus Dyngus Casserole
Ingredients: 1 can cream of mushroom soup, ¼ cup caramelized onion, 1 ½ tsp yellow mustard, 1 pound sauerkraut, drained and squeezed dry, 4 oz. uncooked kluski noodles, 1 pound smoked kielbasa sliced ¼ inch thick, 4 oz. shredded swiss cheese, ¼ cup breadcrumbs
Directions:  Heat oven to 350.  Lightly coat a ceramic casserole dish with cooking spray.  In small bowl, mix together soup, onion, and mustard and set aside.  In casserole dish layer half the sauerkraut.  Layer half the kluski on top, followed by half of the kielbasa.  Spread half of the soup mixture over the kielbasa.  Repeat layering sequence.  Sprinkle cheese and then breadcrumbs over casserole.  Bake for 50 minutes until golden brown and bubbling.  You may want to put a sheet pan under to catch any drips during baking.
Serve with a squirt gun and beach towel.

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