It hasn’t occured to me that Polish food, albeit delicious, can seem weird to other cultures. But yes, some things we eat are most definitely unusual. As I’ve thought about my own eating habits, I made this little list. It mentions the weird Polish food that I love to eat.
I am of course aware that the picture doesn’t show Polish food. But it shows food that could be considered exotic- as Polish food sometimes seems to other cultures.
1) Lactofermented everything.
I wasn’t aware that other nations don’t use lactofermentation that much. However, in Poland it is quite common. Lactofermentation is a process in which for example sauerkraut, gherkins, or sourdough are produced. The way it works? You take for example, rye flour, put it into a jar with some water, close the lid and wait for a few days. When you open the lid, the sourdough is well, sour. We use it for making bread (obviously) but also for soup. Speaking of soup, traditional Polish Christmas borshtsh is made with lactofermented beetroot. True story. I love the lactofermented beetroot juice! We also do sourdough soup (żurek), it’s delicious! And yes, sourmilk and kefir. We drink that too- we let milk go bad. On purpose. It’s delicious!
2) Sweet lunches/dinners
My family never ate sweet lunches but at school, we sometimes did. Examples? Sweet fruit soup. With noodles. Sweet pierogi (with farmer’s cheese, and raisins, or alternatively with fruit). Weird. Probably. Delicious? Definitely. One of the dishes I also remember was spaghetti with strawberries, cream and curd cheese. The leniwe pierogi, lazy pierogi are often eaten sweet, with sugar and cinnamon. Yes, definitely weird. But again, delicious.
3) Cream with everything
I mentioned cream? Nothing is eaten in Poland without cream. Sour cream for the savory stuff, sweet for the sweet stuff. Whipped cream with cakes. I mean even wonderful Terry Pratchett got inspired by the cream-heavy Polish cuisine and wrote it into one of his books (The Fifth Elephant). But yes pretty much everything is served with cream: soups, pasta, dumplings, cakes. You name it, just add cream. Other types of fat such as butter or lard are also generously used.
4) Blood-coloured soup
I mentioned borschtsh already, but I have to mention it again. I am not sure if this is still common protocoll but I’ve heard that due to its weird colour, borscht (although delicious) is never served at diplomatic events. Again I love borscht, but if I wasn’t Polish, I wouldn’t eat it due to its colour.
5) Bread with butter and sugar
At summercamp, we would sometimes be hungry at night. So we would get bread with butter and sugar. It’s an unusual, simple, and yet wonderful combination. I only ate it at summercamp because it was just so not like something I’d eat for some reason. And now, the sugar has been replaced by chocolate sprinkles, called hagelslag in Dutch.
6) Weird fruit
One of the things I miss from Poland is fruit. Weird because you’d think that in Germany or the Netherland,s they’d have similar fruit? Most of the time, they do. but sometimes they don’t. For example, in Poland I would buy fresh sour cherries and eat them raw. They were very sour but very sweet at the same time, the combination is delicious. In Germany, I was looking for them with no success. Apparently, as my MIL told me, they’re only sold already preserved and canned. A pity because they’re very good raw as well. I now have a sour cherry tree in my garden but they fruit are too sour to be eaten raw. Another type of fruit I’m missing are wild blueberries (the small ones with a blue centre) and wild strawberries. You can buy them in Poland. Abroad, you need to have them in your own backyard.
7) Tea with lemon
There are many ways to drink tea and I’ve always assumed that tea with lemon is the way to do it. But when I begun drinking tea in earnest, and especially when I moved abroad, I’ve realized that other nations have other ways to drink tea and not one of them involves lemon. Luckily, I can get my tea-and-lemon kick just by buying lemons and making myself a nice cup of hot tea. With lemon, of course.
8) Jellied pork legs
They look weird but they’re delicious. They really truly are. If you want a picture, here’s one. Haven’t had them forever but I like them. And here’s a fun recipe if you like to give it a try. I most definitely would if I was sure that my family would eat it, but spending so much time on something they wouldn’t like is just not for me.
It’s super healthy, very delicious and apparently weird because it is very hard to get in other countries. I buy it at the Polish supermarket that is close to my place. I even found at one of the Organic stores in the Netherlands, but it was just not the same thing. Besides, in English, the word kasha is used to describe only buckwheat grains. In Polish, kasza means all kind of cooked grains, so there are different types of kasha (for example cous cous, pearled barley and wheat berries would all classify as kasza in Poland). Good that at least I can buy it here, I would be very sad if I couldn’t.
10) Sourkraut Stew
Also known as the renowned Polish bigos. It consists of mainly different kinds of meat and sourkraut, in 50/50 proportions. We eat it for Christmas, and it’s wonderful. I love it. Not necessarily the healthiest of all culinary creations, but delicious nevertheless. Yep, may just have some bigos when I go to Warsaw for Christmas. Yum!
Obviously, there are also some Polish things that I don’t eat (like innards), but I guess sometimes it takes a little clash with some other culture to make you realize that your country’s cuisine isn’t so straightforward or normal as you thought. Obviously, weird doesn’t mean yucky, in this case, it just means “something you considered normal but isn’t, compared to other cultures).
What about you? Is there anything you found surprising about your culture’s cuisine? Something that you thought was normal until you moved abroad?I guess it happens to everyone so I am no exception here.