Spaghetti with Kiełbasa, Alyssa Style

This one’s a little different.

I grew up in northern New Jersey, the oft-maligned region of an oft-maligned state that has, more-or-less, New York City’s demographics. Centuries of immigration have pressed people from all over the world into this tiny piece of America, and with long shoulder-rubbing comes culinary interchange. When Puerto Ricans, Italians, and Polish people meet, magic happens, and some of that magic is spaghetti with kiełbasa, Alyssa style.

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Spaghetti with Kiełbasa, Alyssa Style
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Lilacs, Kiełbasa, and Why New Jersey Deserves Better

“Well, I give up. What’s the catch?”

“Oh, no catch. Although we are technically in New Jersey.”

The way American television talks about New Jersey, one would think the apocalypse already happened, but only there. The air is semisolid industrial waste and the beaches are made of finely ground syringes. The people are ruder than the rudest New York stereotype, bizarrely puffed-up Italian-American caricatures, elitist Princeton heirs, and immigrants from all over Asia and Latin America, somehow all at once, with only racism letting anyone have something other than the most impossibly overwrought “New Jersey accent.” It’s treated as New York’s leavings and the USA’s armpit, in media as obnoxiously cliché as How I Met Your Mother and as original and usually-compassionate as Steven Universe.

None of that is the New Jersey I remember from the eleven years I lived there.

Continue reading “Lilacs, Kiełbasa, and Why New Jersey Deserves Better”

Lilacs, Kiełbasa, and Why New Jersey Deserves Better