St. Nicholas Byzantine Alumni Reunion

One hundred years ago Sunday, September 14, St. Nicholas Byzantine Catholic Church was dedicated. This past year has seen many different events, get-togethers, a picnic, a pysanky display and, back in July, an alumni reunion. While I posted these to Facebook after the event, I failed to remember that there are many more people that aren’t on FB that would like to see the pics from these events.

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St. Nicholas Byzantine Catholic Church – Toledo Avenue

I may have mentioned before that I’m putting together the booklet for the centennial celebration of St. Nicholas Byzantine Catholic Church. I went back to the original St. Nicholas on Toledo Avenue for more pics, having a better camera, more experience, and knowing how I was going to shoot each shot. Unfortunately, the church is showing its age. And the church currently calling the location home, cannot afford the upkeep and will be moving in the future.

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This is located on the ceiling above the pews.

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This is located above the altar.

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The banners were put up by the present church. On they left and right, in front of the pews, they cover an icon of Jesus Christ, and St. Nicholas.

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I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty. – Revelation 1:8

A Tradition Takes Hold

There was a big dinner for my folks back in April, their 45th wedding anniversary. We ate at a local Italian restaurant (is the name “Marino” Italian enough?) and my brother and his fam, my clan, my Mom’s two sisters, her brother and his wife were there. Great time. At the end of the dinner, my uncle suggested getting together for Independence Day. Great! What’re we cooking? Well, how about a Bacon Roast?

Whoa, what??!

The Bacon Roast tradition comes from my Dad’s side of the family. A combination of the Hungarian and Czechoslovakian in his parents brought this over from Europe. My Dad remembers having them when he was a kid, and I remember huge get-togethers when I was young. My Dad, brother Tony and I started them up again when my oldest was a young’un. So, needless to say we were excited and surprised to hear the suggestion come from the Italian side of the family.

In the meantime, we all traded emails about what we’d contribute. I was asked to bake a cheesecake, and I chose a Raspberry White Chocolate that I’ve done once before. I also found some roasting forks at a popular retail camping website. Pop and I used to go out to the woods, and cut branches, like he did in years past, and trim them and whittle the ends to points for cooking the bacon and onions. When the forks arrived, he deemed them perfect.

A few days before the 4th, my folks and I are hashing out details for the cookout. Mom’s picked up the bacon, and we’re all contributing toward sausage and onions from Fligner’s. She also explained that my Italian side of the family does their bacon roasts a little differently. Ok, um, how? Well, they cook all the bacon and then they share it.

That’s great. They can do that. But if I’m cooking bacon, I’m eating that bacon, and I ain’t sharin’ a frickin’ thing. Pop laughed and said the same thing, ‘my bacon is MY bacon.’ I love my family, cousins included. They are great people and I’m thrilled that we’re related. But a bacon roast is a bacon roast.  I’d stab my brother in the hand with a fork if he tried stealing my bacon. Seriously.

Independence Day comes around, and to my Aunt’s we go. My daughter’s friend joined us, and she’s slowly becoming ‘another daughter’ in my family. So, here’s us around the fire that Kristen, Pop and I started.

Pop’s on the right, my cousin Kris in the back, and then Alainey, Kristen and son Mike coming around the circle. Doing it for the first time takes a little training, because while you know what bacon looks like when it’s ready to come out of the pan, it’s a little different when it’s a slab hunk of bacon, roasting on an open fire. And it takes some care to cut off what’s ‘cooked’, because it’s very hot. Duh.

Mike needed just a bit of help carving, and Kristen and Alainey were pretty much doing it for the first time. While I was helping them, my cousin Rocky sat down in my seat and asked to take over my slab for a bit so he could see what all the fuss was about. After a few minutes, and a small sandwich, he was hooked.

When I got my seat back, my uncle walked up to view the cooking and feasting, and after a bit, asked a question that could only have come from someone who’s never had bacon cooked over a fire. “Couldn’t you just cook this in a pan? Wouldn’t that be easier?” We shot him with an “Are you serious?” look. I cut a slice off of my slab and handed it up for him to taste.

“Wow. Yea, that’s good. Nope, definitely can’t get that from a pan.” Big smiles all around.  

If I hadn’t mentioned it before, when you cook the bacon, as the fat melts off, you blot it with a slice of rye bread. The bread becomes pretty saturated as you go along, so if you’re watching your cholesterol, this might not be for you. For the once or twice a year, we just don’t care. It’s THAT good.

 

This is Pop’s plate. He likes to cook all of his and then enjoy. Mike and I like to carve some off and eat it while it’s still hot. Not that any of this bacon lost much heat in Sunday’s 90+ degree temperatures.

Kristen chose to follow in Pop’s technique, though she passed on the onion.

Once everyone had eaten, the desserts came out, and the cheesecake lasted about 8 minutes. A definite do-it-again recipe. As we relaxed in the air conditioning, Kristen and Alainey definitely want a seat around the fire at the next roast. Mike’s been hooked for a few years now. Pop and I are tickled that another generation wants to keep this going. And we’re looking at doing this at least one more time before the end of the year. Hopefully, when it’s a little cooler out.  

 

Restarting A Tradition

Had dinner with my family and my parents Friday evening. We had a cookout in Mom and Pop’s backyard. But it wasn’t something you’ve probably ever come across. And if it would’ve been, I’ll invite you to the next one.

My Dad is Hungarian Slovak. When I was young, and a lot of his siblings were still close by, or in town visiting, they’d have a cookout at my Grandparents house. My Dad had 7 brothers and sisters, all with spouses, and most with kids, at least two apiece. So get-togethers were huge and cramped, considering my Grandparents lived in a tiny house: one small living room, kitchen, two bedrooms and a small bathroom with a clawfoot tub. No basement.

Once or twice a summer, we’d have what they called a bacon roast. This is how it worked. One large fire, lots of whittled sticks or saplings, a bag of small onions and slab bacon. You’d slide a cube (4x3x1 inches)  of the bacon onto one of the pointed sticks, and then a small onion above that, and stick it into the fire. As the fat started dripping off the bacon, you’d blot it onto a slice of rye bread. As the bacon and the onion cooked, you cut thin slices of each onto the greasy rye bread and eat that as you cooked more. Good Lord, you’d have thought you died and went to heaven. Chase it with an ice cold beer, and you knew those Pearly Gates were on the other side of the tree.

For those that didn’t like bacon, there was plenty of wienies to cook, and dishes of baked beans, bags of chips and a variety of salads.  And always, as it got dark, there were bags and bags of marshmallows to roast. The adults would talk and catch up, and the kids would play tag, kickball, catch or just about anything.

My Grandparents passed when I was 12. We didn’t have too many more roasts after that, as the old homestead was sold, and there were plenty of kids to raise, and work that got in the way.

Flash forward 2 decades and change. Every year for the past 10 or so, my brother and I would try to coordinate a roast over at my Parents’ house. Weather, work or something would always prevent it. Being off last Friday evening, I suggested to my folks that we do a bacon roast. Pop’s eyes lit up and he smiled. We made arrangements, and I promised to call my brother. As I walked home, I called. Brother was having friends over. No sweat, just wanted to see if you wanted to hook up. (I couldn’t tell him we were planning a bacon roast, he’d hate my guts!)

Pop and I went out into the woods to cut saplings and branches for the roasting sticks Friday morning, and then back to his house to whittle them down. I went by my house and got a load of wood for the fire. Kids out of school, wife home from the college and down to Mom and Pop’s we went.

Pop had the fire going in this small fire pit, and Mom had all the food laid out on a table. I showed my son how to set up his stick, and we followed my Dad to the fire. My wife and daughter followed shortly after due to a sleepover my daughter was going to. Didn’t take long and my son was cutting onion and bacon off of his stick and chowing down. My daughter and Mom were roasting hot dogs, and my Mrs. had her own bacon and onion going.

As I was finishing my second piece of bacon, I leaned back in the chair and took a swig of beer. With my eyes closed, I must’ve had a smile on my face because my wife commented on it. “Yea,” I said, “this is awesome.” I looked at my kids and said,”I’ll take this over a big, juicy steak ANY day of the week.” My youngest looked at me (and mind you, I can cook a pretty mean steak), raised an eyebrow and said, “Yea, right.” My Dad looked at her, and said,”That goes for me, too. Beats the heck out of a steak.”

As we cleaned up, Pop and I made arrangements to leave the leftover wood there, and I’d bring down more the next time. (When my brother finds out we had one, we’ll have to schedule another so he and his family can make it.) Walking back toward the house, he said one or two more roasts, and my son will be another pro.

“And hopefully, another generation to keep the bacon roast tradition alive,” I wished.

“That would be nice,” he said.

Yes, that would be nice.