Polish Language Blog

Time for Dinner Posted by on Jun 25, 2008 in Culture

Most foreigners, whether they realize it or not, have had some sort of contact with Polish culture. And it happened, most likely, in the kitchen. Yep, it’s Polish food time!

And if you’re going to argue that food is not culture, then I dare you to eat nothing but burgers next time you’re in Italy or France…

The other day I was looking at recipes on the net and came across something that stopped me dead in my tracks. It was a bigos recipe (in English naturally), which recommended using Savoy cabbage. Now, I have absolutely nothing against Savoy cabbage, but just what kind of nouveau-riche bourgeois bigos is that? And what’s next? Bigos with shitake mushrooms? And just a touch of ginger?

Proper bigos is made with simple white cabbage and simple Polish-style sauerkraut. No fancy Savoy there. But that recipe made me realize just how far Polish cuisine has evolved throughout the years. And especially – Polish cuisine abroad. It’s also amazing how certain dishes assimilated so well into their new cultures, many to the point, that few people are aware of their Polish origins.

You may not think much of that plateful of pre-made pierogi, but you are about to consume one of the staples of Polish cuisine. You thought that goulash (gulasz) was Hungarian? As a Pole, I beg to differ! And what about latkes – potato pancakes (placki ziemniaczane)? Yep, also Polish, my favorite childhood snack. Stuffed cabbage (gołąbki)? Polish, too!

Polish food is a mixture of Slavic and foreign culinary traditions, all blended into one, neat package. And as Poles spread throughout the world, the cuisine in its many variations traveled with them. So, what you may consider a purely American invention, might have, in fact, originated somewhere in central Europe.

But it’s not the food that first time visitors to Poland may find confusing. It’s the meal times. And more specifically, the odd timing of lunch and dinner. To be honest, there is no real lunch in Poland. There is breakfast, dinner and supper. Breakfast is eaten when you wake up. Then, somewhere between 10am and whenever you’re hungry, you can have a snack commonly called “second breakfast”.

Dinner is eaten anywhere between noon and 4PM, and is the most substantial meal of the day – meat, potatoes, and the whole works. And then there’s supper – normally a light snack sometime in the evening.

These days, there’s also the curious hybrid of obiadokolacja (dinner-supper), which as the name suggests, is equivalent to a big meal eaten in the evening.
For now, let’s stick with the basics:

Śniadanie = breakfast
Drugie śniadanie = second breakfast
Obiad = dinner
Kolacja = supper

Smacznego! = Bon Appetite!

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  1. Marianna Burzycka:

    Anna, Really enjoyed the article. Great photo of the pierogi – I’m near drooling! So many great Polish dishes! thanks to share on the Polish Blog.

  2. Grazyna:

    hhhmm…. pierogi… [sigh] – long time no see! 🙁 I can see your fingers have no break, huh? Keep it up, gal!

  3. Anna:

    Hi Marianna and Grazyna!
    And the sad thing is that I don’t even make pierogi anymore. I just buy them frozen, ready-made and my man never knows the difference. 😉

  4. Liz:

    I recently come back from a short stay on Poland and loved every minute in particular the FOOD!. Just wondering if anyone has a receipe for pierogi and also does anyone know the name of a soup I tried – it had boiled eggs and ham and seemed to be a clear broth type soup.
    Any help would be great thanks

  5. Anna:

    Hi Liz!
    I can do a post on different variations of pierogi and post a couple of recipes, too. But when it comes to the soup you described – I’m stumped. Hmmm… I’ll have to ask around. Many soups are regional inventions and might be popular in one specific part of the country only.

  6. Latte:

    We have also podwieczorek- a snack beetween dinner and supper ;D it’s like english tea-time

  7. Danusia:

    Originally, bigos was a recipe served in wealthy homes on special occasions because it uses ingredients that are expensive, seasonal, labor-intensive, or hard to find (even in the old days). Later, people started making substitutions, and this type of “bigos” has very little in common with the original recipe. I am Polish and while in Poland, I had perfected my bigos recipe back to its former gourmet quality 🙂 I used game (boar and deer meat instead of beef), organic spices and sauerkraut, etc. Nowadays, if I want to make it, I have to find substitutions. I chuckled at your comment about shiitake. It may seem extravagant, but actually, shiitake mushrooms would be the closest to the original wild mushrooms that the recipe calls for if you don’t have wild mushrooms. You may find that depending on where you live, wild mushrooms cost a lot more than shiitake. I live in the U.S. and use fresh shiitake in place of wild mushrooms all the time in my cooking. Shiitake have enough flavor. Regular mushrooms won’t do because they are too blunt (in taste) so to speak. Yes, you can buy dry wild mushrooms, but they won’t be as flavorful so if you don’t want to spend a small fortune, shiitake is still a good choice. There is no need for Savoy cabbage, I agree. Sauerkraut is actually a German specialty, so if you can’t find it in a regular store, you can look in those that carry traditional German foods. Alternatively, if you have the time (and patience) you can make your own sauerkraut – after all, it is nothing else than pickled cabbage.

  8. Joy:

    What a fantastic website. A lot of answers have been found, as well as more questions.