- Good Polish food is not an oxymoron. Be bold. You might be pleasantly surprised.
- Eat duck, goose, and other meat dishes; slow-cooked, often served with rich, dark fruit sauces.
- Try the trout, preferably on the side of the lake where it was caught. Polish fish (trout) and chips are quite yummy.
- Pierogi: Reminiscent of agnoletti (a filled half-moon shaped pasta), pierogi (dumplings) might be well known in Europe and North America, but they are rarely seen or heard of here in NZ. My favourites were filled with mushrooms. Try the cheese dumplings (pierogi ruski) too – they are filled with a light cottage cheese and potato, and aren’t nearly as heavy as I expected.
- Be bold, as suggested above, but be prepared for failure. Beware the regional specialities. I thought I’d be adventurous one day at lunch, and ordered something that sounded a bit like a gnocchi in a mushroom sauce. It wasn’t. I should have had the trout and chips.
- Soup: Zurek is a simple sour soup that is popular. A clear broth, with hard-boiled egg and sausage, it is tangy and delicious, and well worth trying. They do a good chicken noodle soup too. The weather is bleak for many months of the year, and a hearty and warming soup would certainly cheer up my day if I lived there.
- Bread. After our disappointments with Italian bread, Poland was a joy. Such variety, breads filled with grains, hearty breads, soft breads, bread with flavour and variety. I swooned every time I took a bite of Polish bread.
- When you think of European food markets, I at least tend to think of a bustling, Mediterranean market, full of eggplant and brightly coloured capsicums (peppers), with lush ripe red tomatoes everywhere. My friend learned of a slow food market near her home, and we visited it on an icy Saturday morning. So different from our local market in Rome, but no less interesting. until we realised that samples were abundant, and the hot apple juice then sustained us as we browsed the stalls. We sampled the bread, and cheese, and purchased some for dinner that evening. And then recovered in a warm cafe with lattes and hot chocolate.
- Try the street food. Throughout Warsaw we saw ice-cream stalls. But it wasn’t really ice-cream weather. Instead, at a market in Krakow we tried some (heavy) cheesy pastries, served with a berry sauce. And later in Warsaw we tried some hot apple turnovers. Hot dog (sausage and bread) stalls were common too. (After all, as one of my friend’s colleagues said, “Poland is the land of sausage.” I wish we’d seen more street food. I would have enjoyed sampling it, I am sure.
- Wash it all down with Polish beer. It’s good. And plentiful.
Since we left Rome, we’ve been travelling so much that keeping up with the blog has essentially been a business of recording where we’ve been. And that was not the kind of blog I had anticipated keeping. The writing is easy. But the visuals – loudly clammered for in the first weeks – delay publication, and any thought of moving on to shorter, interest (frivolous?) pieces.
But this week, the weather has packed up, and we’ve caught up on sleeping, cooking, organising (and backing up) photographs. So that brings me to a very important topic. Food. More specifically, bread. More specifically, toasted bread. The Italians like bread. There is always bread on your table in a restaurant – usually charged for in a coperto (cover charge) – and this is of varying quality to be frank. And we’ve found some bread we like for sandwiches, and for toast. Except that there’s the problem. Italians don’t toast. They advertise “toast” in bars and cafes, but I think that is similar to our more familiar cheese on toast, or grilled sandwich. (We had a memorable cheese toast at the top of the Simplon Pass – the amount of cheese on the plate would have fed a family of four.) Our first apartment had a toaster, but finding the right bread was an issue. Anyway, we’re realising that that was probably the exception. The journalist in the tower clearly doesn’t eat toast. There was no toaster in sight. And the apartment we’re in now has a sandwich griller, which the owner called a “toaster.” (Poor innocent Italian that doesn’t understand Toast).
So the husband, who is addicted to toast and considers it a perfectly acceptable dinner, has had to resort to the ready-made toast we find in the supermarkets. Each piece is identical, crisp throughout, evenly tanned on both sides. And yes, it comes in a convenient, resealable pack. But it’s not the same. The texture is all wrong and crumbly, the spreads don’t melt on the toast, and most disappointing of all, we don’t get that delicious, toasted bread smell. It didn’t matter so much when the temperatures were raging outside, and the idea of hot food was often repugnant. But now, with colder, rainy days, we miss the comfort of toast.