Wigilia, Part II: Small favors yield big payoffs

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Several days ago, I received word that a big package was waiting for me at the Stanford English Department, Priority Mail. I couldn’t imagine what it was, except more unrequested books from publishers when I can’t even get to the requested ones. I didn’t get back to campus to collect the package till today.

Imagine my surprise when it contained the second installment of the Wigilia season! I had done a small research errand at the Stanford Libraries for one of my favorite medievalists, Jeff Sypeck, blogger at Quid Plura – something to do with a big, obscure tome in German.

becoming-charlemagne-coverThis was his small seasonal way of saying “Danke!” To which I return with a “Dziękuję”! Jeff had apparently read my Wigilia post (it’s here), and headed for his neighborhood Polish shop in Washington, D.C., I can’t help but think this is destiny calling me to do another book about Polish literature. (My most recent one, An Invisible Rope: Portraits of Czesław Miłosz, I’ve written about here and here and here and here – endlessly, really.)

Jeff will be familiar to Book Haven readers as an occasional correspondent, and also the author of a book on Charlemagne, and another book, a short collection of witty poems on the unusual subject of gargoyles, to benefit the restoration of National Cathedral in D.C., where he strolls through the gardens on his walks (more about that here). The book is available on Amazon here (a great holiday gift!) – or pick one up in the National Cathedral gift shop, if you’re in D.C.

lookingup-coverI put my Polish cache on my Warsaw tablecloth above. The thing about Polish, is that it’s not too hard to figure out if you have a few pronunciation keys: “czekoladki marcepanowe” is chocolate marzipan. “Jabłko z cynamonem” is cinnamon tea. All but the heavily initiated will be lost with “borowików,” which is a porcini mushroom, but the “koncentrat” with the photo shows that this may be a good addition to a mushroom lasagna. Meanwhile, I have a zillion Christmas cookies to make tonight, so…

The packages will wait long past Wigilia, for the annual family Twelfth Night gathering at my house – though I did cheat with the marzipan, for which I have a pronounced weakness. No Shakespeare this year, but perhaps we could read a poem or two. We might start with the lines on the card from Jeff, from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow‘s “Christmas Bells”:

The world revolved from night to day,
.   A voice, a chime,
.   A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

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One Response to “Wigilia, Part II: Small favors yield big payoffs”

  1. Jeff Sypeck Says:

    Amusingly, I popped all of this loot in the mail before reading your Wigilia post—but I’m glad it proved so timely. I loved having an excuse to visit the Polish grocery in Maryland. The smell of smoked pork, round-faced men chattering away in the language of my grandparents…it felt like the real start of Christmas for me. We’ll be continuing our own scaled-down family Wigilia with oplatek, which I enjoy, and pickled herring, which I wish didn’t make me shudder. Thanks again for your help! Glad I could add some cheer to your Twelfth Night festivities.

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