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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!