Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Starting Point

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Starting Point

Article excerpt

My paternal grandma was larger than life in every sense of the word. Of Lithuanian heritage, she was a robust, barrel-shaped woman who wore purple everything long before the poem was written, and donned red wigs topped off by hats that looked like fluffy fabric layer cakes. She had little use for formal churchgoing but kept a home rich in folk belief and good cooking--there was always something simmering on her stove, morning noon and night.

Food for my grandma was how you showed love, and cooking was a kind of prayer. She understood that belief went beyond the four walls of the church and simmered in bubbling butter, glistened in pickled fish and came to life in the literal breaking of grainy, homemade loaves.

Years later, nostalgic for my childhood, I was in Doylestown, Pa., to attend the annual Polish festival at the Shrine of the Black Madonna, a mecca of Eastern European culture and religiosity. …

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