once upon a time, there was an olympic potluck at work where each was asked to bring a dish representative of a country. it’s not often that i bring up bits of my past on the blog but here’s a rare glimpse of something that has helped shape the woman i am today.
every easter, my grammy would lovingly & sometimes begrudgingly prepare a labor of love called the ‘hrudka.’ it’s a cheese eaten in a few variations by many eastern european countries. for us, it was slovakia. i remember her standing in the kitchen stirring slowly over a pot for what seemed hours until the whey separated from the curd. a simple dish in terms of ingredients (eggs, whole milk & salt/sugar) but only the patience exercised of a wise chef would be rewarded a perfectly executed ball of goodness. due to the homemade and rustic nature of this cheese, it’s extremely perishable needing trashed after 1-2 days of preparation. this was never a problem in our house where we would happily devour slice after slice making sure to slather a few teaspoons worth of beet horseradish on top.
after her death, the house was sold. my mother never dared to make this cheese for reasons i’m not entirely sure. i could speculate, but ultimately the kitchen remained quiet for many years. until last night. i decided to take on the 13 hour affair and honor my grandmother. as i stood over the double boiler slowly stirring, forty minutes passed…then eighty. i hardly even noticed how long i had been standing there over the steam as it washed over my face. i could hear her saying ‘patience will be rewarded’ and i waited and watched for the curd to form. i lost my grandmother far too soon and i miss her to this day. she was absent from my first high school prom, graduation, college and my marriage to nate but i will never forget her spunkyness. she taught me to stand up for myself and to be proud of who i am. as i hung the cheesecloth ball over the sink just like she used to, i felt overcome with the love that i knew she had for me as a child. lactose intolerance aside, i happily enjoyed the rustic cheese. i can’t wait to share this special dish with my coworkers. even if it doesn’t suit their palate, it has become my labor of love.