Introduction

Introduction

By
Zuza Zak
Contains
0 recipes
Published by
Quadrille Publishing
ISBN
9781849497268
Photographer
Laura Edwards

“Najistotniejsza cecha jedzenia jest jego umiejscowanie na granicy swiata natury i świata kultury.”

“The most vital attribute of food is its placement precisely on the border between the world of nature and the world of culture.”

{Waldemar Zarski, Ksiazka Kucharska Jako Tekst}

To understand a cuisine is to understand a culture. To understand a culture is to understand the spirit of a nation. The word Poland derives from the word ‘pole’, which means ‘field’; so even the name of my country is connected with the earth. We define ourselves through our cuisine, which we love deeply, nurture and continue to uphold. Yet it is misunderstood in many parts of the world. Why? Every minority culture faces prejudice and ignorance, yet I believe Polish cuisine, which I remember so fondly from my childhood, is particularly prone to this kind of misalignment.

The Slavic culture is one of hospitality; most people prefer to eat at home, or at the homes of friends and family, rather than in restaurants, and it is at home where the best food is found. I have explored my childhood memories spent in Poland during the Communist years and I have also delved deep into Polish history books to gain a real insight into my country; to retrieve traditions that have been forgotten; to compare the colourful folklore of the peasantry with the more refined tastes of the aristocracy; focusing on common threads that run through the soul of this ever-changing nation. For this is a cuisine that has survived the partitions, where Poland effectively ceased to exist for over 100 years and when Communism attempted to exterminate our culture. We survived, not without scars. The country’s sense of loss is palpable, yet trauma has been swept under the carpet of economic growth and development. As quickly as Poland is recovering from its past, and as wonderful as it is to see our people spreading their once clipped wings, it is just as important to remember our roots. Many people have moved through and settled on this land, leaving imprints on our cuisine as they came and went. Despite the unthinkable end to Jewish culture in this area, Chicken soup (rosół) is a staple as are many fish and meat dishes which feature ‘Jewish-style’ variants. This is also true for more transitory ethnicities, such as the many Gypsies that came in and out of Poland throughout the centuries.

When travelling through modern Poland you still get a taste of these historical eras in our food – the famous staropolski style that you find in many a karczma (Polish inn) is the old-school traveller fare; the communist years are relived in the milk bars; whereas in the high-end contemporary city restaurant you will find the exciting taste of a modern Poland rediscovering itself.

My intention was not to write a typical, traditional Polish cookbook but to create something contemporary, a love letter to the country I left behind.

This book is my journey.

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