Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Potica - Povitica

Derived from the Slovenian word "poviti" meaning "to wrap in," potica (Serbs refer to it as Povitica) is a sweet yeast bread with a walnut, apple, poppy seed or cream cheese filling. 
Making this treat should be mandatory during the holidays: several generations of family are gathered at Christmas or Easter, the process takes most of the day and there are tasks suitable for both young and old family members. Small hands can grind walnuts while grandma explains how the recipe arrived from the "old country" with her mother "who left when she was 16-years-old, and was never able to see her parents again."  A tattered recipe card contains ingredients and the steps, but the commentary provides the variations: "Your aunt Helen always adds raisins, and aunt Agnes uses honey instead of sugar. Folks worried when your Uncle Andy married a German girl but she learned to make the best potica, and it worked out all right." 
More important than a written recipe is the action of kneading, of observing the dough rise (twice!), spreading the filling just so in order for the pastry to cook and pricking the bread so air bubbles can escape. The kitchen is filled with the aroma of baking bread and the warmth of family stories.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Whistles, bells and horns

There was a time in Globeville when few people owned a watch or even a radio, yet most residents were aware of the time and of events important to the community.
"When we heard the Globe Smelter whistle in the morning, we knew we had about 10 minutes before school began and we'd better start walking," June Jackson Egan said. Whistles, bells and horns made sure the neighborhood and the blue-color labor force knew what time it was. 
The meat packing plants used whistles to signal a shift change and lunch time at noon, church bells rang out before Mass each morning and trains blew their horns in warning at every crossing. All would peal in celebration at the end of World War I and on VJ Day, and sound an alarm whenever the Platte River would overflow its banks. New Year's Eve was a noisy affair of whistles, bells and inebriated gunfire. 
Today, the smelter and packinghouses are quiet, and residents check updates from smart phones for detailed information. Yet the bells of Transfiguration, St. Joseph's and Holy Rosary Churches continue their tradition of announcing that Mass is about to begin, and trains interrupt the day with their horns. 

Top photo, the silent Globe Smelter Plant, by Mary Lou Egan
Bottom photo, Employees of Armour and Company, 1929, photo used with written permission from Dorothy Nevelos