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Polish Traditions Served Up at Norwalk Deli

Barbara Kusiowski's grandmother kept the traditions alive, sending the children to buy ingredients as she worked all day to bake babkas and other Polish Easter favorites, even when she was in her 80s, in Lafayette, La.

Kusiowski is older now, too, but she has a leg up on her grandmother. She lives in Lafayette's sister city, Stamford, and she can easily travel to Norwalk and the Polish Delicatessen at 274 Connecticut Ave. It carries all the Easter favorites: 30 types of kielbasa (twice the usual amount), hams, an assortment of babkas (a sweet yeast cake), vegetable salad, Easter baskets blessed in the church and, imported from New York bakeries, sheet cakes of poppyseed, cheesecakes, honeycakes and more.

"It's our busiest week of the year," said Vieslawa Polak, who opened the store a year and a half ago. She sells 2,000 pierogies a week, and her buffet – which features savory treats such as sauerkraut with porcini mushrooms, stuffed cabbage and chicken in dill sauce – has many fans.

"It'll melt in your mouth," said Luis Hernandez, who used to eat there everyday. He's in Salt Lake City now for school but stopped in for a meal in while on spring break. "There's good, good stuff here."

The store is so busy during the Holy Week that Polak brings in her relatives to work. Her nephew was working the cash register Wednesday, and her two sisters were cooking in the kitchen. Irena Florcyzk whipped up a big batch of vegetable salad, which included tiny chopped pieces of celery root, peas, potatoes, carrots wrapped in mayonnaise and mustard. Polak said some families eat it for breakfast, while others serve it as a side dish with dinner. It's good wrapped in ham, she said.

Kusiowski said she puts it on lettuce and serves it with lunch or dinner. She bought two types of kielbasa Wednesday and talked about the Easter baskets, which feature miniature hams, kielbasa and babkas, eggs and horseradish, all blessed at Stamford's Holy Name of Jesus church.

"With the eggs and the kielbasa that are blessed, the eggs we divide up into wedges," she said. "We cut them on the plate, we all take one, we hold it, we go around and we wish each other a happy Easter: wishes for the year, for the happy spring, whatever, whatever anybody has to say. Then we have borscht and we have our egg with the borscht. I cut up the kielbasa, the blessed one, the blessed ham, and that is given on the plates before any other food is given. That's the way we do it."

Are you Polish? What are you doing for Easter?

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