Food, etc.

22 Oct

I remember Polish food from my childhood when I spent a few weeks on a Polish farm, or later when I went to South East Poland on a summer holiday. The reason I say this is that when my family lived in Poland, we didn’t always eat Polish food. Sometimes my father would slice Polish bacon from a joint, and we always had Polish jam, which , frankly, has always beaten British jam hollow, not to mention the odd strawberry soup.  However,most of the time we ate things which would come under the label British or even international, so  the smell that evokes those times on the Polish farm and on the summer holiday in the South East of Poland, is that of cabbage soup, a much nicer smell than that of cooking cabbage on its own, which I have never liked much.

Cabbage and pork are obviously two things that feature a lot in Polish cuisine, and some well-known dishes from here are bigos, a cabbage dish with sausage or bacon or pieces of meat, and pierogi, a kind of Polish pasta, or let’s say ravioli polonaise, if you will excuse my probably inaccurate French. The point with pierogi is that these ‘dough pockets’ are stuffed with lots of delicious things, both savoury and sweet, for example mushrooms, which is also a crucial part of Polish cuisine, since everyone picks wild mushrooms here, and the Polish love of mushrooms means that every individual mushroom has a different name, whereas in Britain we either resort to using an adjective + mushroom, e.g. oyster mushrooom, or we resort to the Latin classification, e.g. armanita, though that of course is also known in some manifestations as the Death Cap mushroom.

No Pole worth his salt (or mushrooms)  is going to go picking mushrooms without being able to identify the ones which are poisonous. Unfortunately, occasionally people make mistakes, as recently happened in the Bieszczady district of Poland when some teenagers picked a Death Cap or two , confusing them for a more edible variety, then ended up eating them. Unfortunately they died in  hospital because people had not identified the problem in time. The problem with Death Cap is that it is delicious, and its poisoning symptoms are subtle before it’s too late.  

Typical for me to start talking about highly edible things and end up with talking about poison. Well, getting back to Polish food, it is not in the least bit poisonous. Try their version of Pork steak (or neck of pork),  karkowka, or golambki, a stuffed cabbage which, unlike its not-very-nice Greek counterpart salmades, is worth trying. There are loads of others, including a delicious variant on the humble meatball using mountain cheese.

Because my wife is Polish and my mother-in-law makes delicious Polish meals, and there are a lot of decent Polish restaurants in this neck of the woods, I don ‘t attempt to cook Polish stuff myself, but instead resort to a more ‘international’, i.e. fusion cuisine. Not content with Spag Bol and Pasta alla Norma on their own, I outrage Italians by combining them both and I don’t use mozzarella, but cheddar or similar cheese. I usually make it with tagliatelli. My ‘British’ Shepherd’s Pie has lots of oregano and tomatoes in it. I can’t resist playing around with my favourite Steak and Ale Pie by adding a few Mexican spices. I stuff pitta bread with bean sprouts and soy, onions and leeks.




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