Preparation

The Girl decided that she wanted to help K make barszcz, that most perfect of all uses of the beet. We’re meeting friends for a post-trick-or-treating party tomorrow night, and the hosts asked K to bring barszcz. What can I say — she’s a master. Everyone loves her barszcz — both varieties.

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The Girl peeled some of the beets before heading off for a bath then peeled some of the carrots afterward. They all simmered with parsnip, garlic, onions, and some herbs to make the stock that will form the basis of the soup.

“Since it’s not a postny soup,” she said, “I also threw in some smoked ribs.” Which is to say, because it didn’t have to be vegetarian because of Lent or Advent, she used a few of the ribs I smoked a few weeks ago.

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The other request was for smalec. In a word, smalec means lard, but to call the dish that shares the same name simply “lard” is a gross injustice. “Lard” is for frying donuts and cutlets. Smalec is a little slice of heaven — or perhaps a little glob of heaven, for it is essentially fat.

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Fat with bacon bits, finely sliced (and sauteed in butter) onions, and slivers of apple (fried in the bacon drippings). At least that’s the way K’s mom taught her to make it. There are probably a thousand and one varieties, and truth be told, we’ve already begun experimenting: we took some of the meat from the ribs used in the barszcz stock and chopped it finely to mix in with the other ingredients for the smalec.

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“Why not?” K shrugged when I suggested it. “It’s all pork.”

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