Chrzan- horseradish (pronounced Kshan)
I bought a jar of horseradish at the grocery store. It pained me because I know Ciocia Felicia grated fresh horseradish for the Easter breakfast table at my parents’ house. I’m 2,006 miles away so I have to figure out how to burn my nose hairs on my own, so I can feel like I had a normal Easter without them.
I can picture her grating it- outside or on the porch, silver metal bowl in hand, eyes tearing, nose sniffling and face red with force. Woman against rooty beast. When it comes to hand to hand combat, believe me, I put my money on Ciocia Fela. She’s not easily put off by tears and some hard work. Someone walks out a winner from the shred, and it isn’t the root.
Ciocia keeps the grated horseradish white, or dyes it purple with beets. She stores it in a recycled jar. I like seeing those old jam jars. Makes my store bought shrink wrapped cap hygienic but disappointing. I bought Bubbies brand because it had natural ingredients and their dill pickles are super tasty. I had a different brand I picked up first but when I saw that Bubbies made horseradish, I brought the other one back with a skip in my step. Any company that has a photo of their ancestor on the bottle is okay in my book. This is the best I can get to homemade without doing it myself.
I’m not sure I have the mettle to hand-grate some myself. I’m likely to touch my eyes or scrape my knuckles. It just wouldn’t be fun to try unless I had my mom and my aunt, hovering behind me saying, “Not like this. Like this.”
It’s the Chrzan we talk about around the table, second to the fresh kielbasa.
“Where is the Chrzan?”
“Pass the Chrzan”
“Is the Chrzan hot this year?”
Adam usually plops a heaping spoonful onto his kielbasa and rye bread.
Czy ty zwariował – Have you gone crazy! My mother will say.
Everyone waits for the verdict, hot or not hot? It happens every year. It will happen again today even though I am not at home.
I’ll ask on the phone.
If ‘It’s not that hot’ is proclaimed. Ciocia will go on to complain about the root. She’ll shrug. She’ll wonder if Market Basket didn’t have good ones this year. She’ll act like it was a firecracker that didn’t go off. A dud. A fuse with no blast. She’ll feel had, robbed of something spectacular. There’s nothing she likes better than setting off a Roman candle at the kitchen table while silently taking praise while washing the dishes.
It’s not like one cooks a horseradish to perfection, you either get a good root or not. You either balance it perfectly with vinegar or you don’t. It’s either going to create a new path in your sinuses or it won’t.
Every Easter, we gather around the table to find out.
Will my store bought horseradish be as tasty at Ciocia’s homemade horseradish? I dunno.
My nose is waiting.