WILKES-BARRE — So I get this email from a guy in Virginia, asking me for my mother’s kielbasa recipe.
Are you kidding?
The guy — who called me Mr. Boyle — dropping my O’ — says he has been a “restaurateur” for 40-plus years and he loves kielbasa. Apparently, according to this guy, “the south does not know that sausage,” which he attests is “one of the best encased meats.”
Yeah, Virginia guy, we know that. Did you see the crowd in Plymouth over the weekend — thousands walking up and down Main Street, stuffing their faces with kielbasa sandwiches, kielbasa on a stick and kielbasa treats.
“I wonder if you share, or would share, your mom’s recipe as discussed in your article,” the Virginia man wrote. “I would love to serve a great kielbasa as an hors d’oeurves at some of our elevated events. If that is not possible, would you kindly steer me to a recipe you like that is excellent?”
Here is my response to the Virginia guy:
“As you must know, kielbasa recipes are guarded like corporate trade secrets … unless you are a direct blood relative, you have zero chance of knowing anything about how a family’s kielbasa is made. Good luck with your search for the best recipe.
“As far as mustard seeds, none of the Kielbasa Contest entrants use mustard seeds anymore … and the quality suffers. I have a friend — again I cannot reveal his/her name — who still uses mustard seeds in the recipe. It is by far the best kielbasa around these parts — however, the family rarely makes it anymore, but when they do, I always get several rings of both fresh and smoked.
“I suggest you attend the annual Plymouth Kielbasa Festival on Aug. 11-12 to do some comprehensive research. You may not get your answers, but you will have fun and certainly find some decent kielbasa.”
I have experience in asking people about their kielbasa recipes. I have asked how do you mix your meats? How much garlic do you use? What wood do you use to smoke your kielbasa? What other ingredients do you use?
The answers are always vague, like “You know, we use pork, beef, some garlic, a few dashes of this and that, we throw it all together, you know.”
The fact is you are never going to get anyone to reveal their recipe. You have a better chance of getting the PIN to their ATM card. These recipes have been in families for generations. They are never — I repeat, never — going to be given to anybody — especially not to strangers or restaurateurs from Virginia.
Now, you might be able to come upon a strange-looking fellow down at the Kielbasa Festival. You will know him when you see him — long, over-sized coat, sunglasses and old, worn shoes. He will be looking for you and when he detects someone who appears to be searching frantically for a kielbasa recipe, he will tap you on the shoulder and invite you into the shadow of a large building. He will open his coat and there will be rings of kielbasa — fresh on one side, smoked on the other. He will offer you a taste. When you decide which one you like, he will tell you the price for the recipe.
Of course I am joking. That will never happen because nobody has those recipes.
Which brings me to another point. Most families have certain recipes for various food items that have been served over the years. It could be lasagna, spaghetti sauce, soup — I still crave my mom’s red soup with homemade noodles and vegetables — pierogi, pigs in the blanket, and any dish from any culture. The fact is those recipes are stored within the walls of each family.
There have been many times that I have heard someone say, “My mom made the best (fill in the name of the dish) but she’s gone now and I don’t have the recipe.” Too often some people never take the time to make sure they have those coveted recipes written down to assure they are never lost. They should also take the time to learn them from their mothers or grandmothers.
Life is to be lived and enjoyed. And what better way to remember our past than over dinner with mom’s recipes?
As far as my mom’s kielbasa is concerned, even if somebody tried to duplicate it, it just wouldn’t be the same.