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Dzień Dziękczynienia – Thanksgiving Posted by on Nov 27, 2008 in Vocabulary

Happy Thanksgiving to our American friends!

To those of you who are in Poland, are you doing anything special? Are you preparing the whole nine yards of turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes and pies and ham and green beans and corn and freshly baked rolls?

And speaking of pies, how would you translate “pie” into Polish. My dictionaries say that it’s either ciasto or placek. But that’s not entirely true, is it now? Ciasto is simply “cake” and placek is also “cake,” even if a flat one. Neither one gets even close to describing the true nature of “pie.”
I simply said “paj” in Polish and people seemed to understand. At least the people I met in Gdańsk.

But anyway, let’s leave this profound “pie” problem for another time and cover the rest of your Thanksgiving feast.

  • indyk (masc., pl. indyki) – turkey
  • szynka (fem., pl. szynki) – ham
  • ziemniak (masc., pl. ziemniaki) – potato, though in some parts of Poland you can hear the German version “kartofel” (pl. kartofle) being used
  • fasola szparagowa (fem., pl. fasole szparagowe, though this plural would be rarely, if ever used) – green bean
  • kukurydza (fem., pl. kukurydze, though as above, this plural would be rarely used) – corn
  • galaretka (fem., pl. galaretki) – jello (but be careful with this one, in Polish “galaretka” means the savory kind, too and it’s not as disgusting as it sounds, OK?)
  • sałatka (fem., pl. sałatki) – salad
  • nadzienie (neuter, pl. nadzienia) – stuffing

And finally:

  • Dzień Dziękczynienia or Święto Dziękczynienia – Thanksgiving

And here something funny happens. Depending on which Polish phrase you use, be careful, because they have different grammatical genders.
Dzień Dziękczynienia is masculine (literally – day of thanksgiving)
and Święto Dziękczynienia is neuter (literally – holiday/feast/celebration of thanksgiving).

Now go and enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner. And to our friends not in the US – tell me about important holidays in your countries and I’ll cover them, too. In Polish, naturally. Kartofle and all…

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  1. michael:

    I love your blog, great mix between fun stuff and learning.

    I must disagree with you about the savoury galaretka, it is as disgusting as it sounds. Obviously I didn’t tell the kind people who gave it to me this.

    It had had meat and vegetables on the inside but it was covered in gelatin or some kind of wobbly clear animal fat!! 🙁

  2. pinolona:

    I second Michael on the galeretka. It’s nasty.

  3. Anna:

    Michael and Pino,
    I guess it takes a special kind of person to appreciate the galaretka 😉
    But then again, the same can be said about some of your British specialties…
    Anyway, all that apart, what other Polish cuisine staples do you think are nasty? I vote for “kaszanka” and “czernina.”

  4. michael farris:

    Polish cuisine I think is nasty? Not that much.

    I’m not crazy about fish in gelatin but it doesn’t make me gag. I’ve even been known to enjoy salceson, kaszanka (cold not heated), pigs feet, flaki and czernina (big surprise it has a sweet almost chocolaty taste!) I once had ozorki and almost wretched when I chomped down on a …. tongue! brrrrrrr I sliced it up into the smallest pieces I could (to hid the tongue texture) and it tasted fine.

    Some things I usually haven’t liked in general or in their Polish incarnations:


    peas and carrots: I like peas, I like carrots, but most of the time when I’ve had the combination in Poland it’s just kind of tasteless and blah. Nothing too horrible but not anything I ever want to have again.

    spinach: Again I like spinach, I can even cook frozen spinach so that I like it but most Polish cooks …. just kind of heat it and it’s …. not good.


    I like a lot of Polish deserts (okay most of the time it’s served on its own and not really desert) but I never go out of my way to have two of the staples

    makowiec: mak (poppy seeds) are one of those tastes best acquired in childhood (like marmite, or where I’m from, grits) otherwise they’re just kind of metalic tasting. I like cakes that have some poppy seeds mixed into the batter but the poppy masa that’s used in makowiec doesn’t do much for me.

    sernik: too dry! too dry! too dry! and what are raisins doing in/on it?

    speaking of jello and galaretka, one of my pet peeves in mistranslations is when American ‘jelly’ is translated as galaretka, it’s not! it’s dżem (well, not exactly but closer to dżem than galaretka).

  5. scatts:

    Sorry, but I need to stand up for a good kaszanka sausage. Grilled with some onion, ogórki and mustard on the side (not horseradish) and accompanied by some fresh bread it is really hard to beat!

    I can deal with galaretka on the few occasions I have to. It’s a sort of solid, bouncy rosół.

    Agree with Mike about peas and carrots but would add beetroot as well when it’s done all hot and creamy……yuksville!

  6. michael farris:

    The best heated kaszanka I’ve had was in Budapest (where’s it called hurka and comes in two varieties, blood or liver, both yummy).

    Some hears ago I had loose kaszanka (not in a skin, given to me by a friend with relatives in the countryside) I heated it per instructions and almost wretched (I’m not sure why, heated kaszanka in a skin has never provoked that reaction). But still generally I prefer cold kaszanka.

    Beets are fine (I prefer boiled whole) but I can’t have too much as it does something with my stomache (not to mention intresting bathroom effects).
    Seler is another food that can give me stomache problems if I have too much of it but in small doses its really necessary in some dishes (sałatka warzywna just isn’t the same without it).

  7. Michael:

    I haven’t come accross any polish food as bad as galaretka but i speak from limited experience.

    I don’t like ser biały(i am not a cheese fan anyway) but i love oscypek.
    I like serek homogenizowany and wiśnówka but not together! 🙂
    I think that there is so much good Polish food that we could spend a lot of time talking about it.

    P.S. I am not British but i don’t take it seriously when people put Ireland, England, Scotland and Whales all together. I am Irish amd the food is great here, better than English food i think!;-). To jest żart.

  8. Anna:

    Wow! you guys could start a regular Polish cooking show or something! 🙂
    Now my comments: there is no way I can eat kaszanka. I’ve tried. It’s vile. It has to do with the texture, I guess. Flaczki are good! Yum! I had a Vietnamese roommate once who used to make the best Polish flaczki ever, she served it with rice, though and was convinced it was a very mundane Asian dish.
    Creamy beets? Is it even possible to make them that way? I’ve never heard of it. I normally boil them, then shred them. Season lightly with lemon juice and sugar (only if you want) and ready.
    Sernik – I hear you on the “too dry” bit, and I agree. Blame the twaróg, but if you make a Polish cheesecake using Philly cream cheese, then it turns out so light and fluffy, just like a Japanese steamed cake. Much better than any American cheesecake I’ve tried.

    Ah, the jelly and jello problem. Michael, you probably won’t believe it, but just recently I was having the very same discussion with a Polish-English translator, who was arguing that since jelly is made using gelatin (is it? I never knew that!) it CAN be translated as “galaretka.” Ręce opadają…

  9. Pat:

    Just a thought- I think Polish galaretka is translated as aspic

  10. Christine:

    It is obvious none if you are really Polish. Galareta is delicious with vinegar on it. You can remove the fat that is on top of it & pour a little vinegar. Eaten with a good rye bread. Delicious with either fish or meat. I like my kazanka fried with a little butter out of the casing. Happy Thanksgiving.

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