Stuff I Eat Because I'm Polish
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Weird Polish Food I Love To Eat

Stuff I Eat Because I'm Polish

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.

9) Kasha

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.

 

 

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26 Comments

  • Reply Jen of PIWTPITT.com June 19, 2014 at 11:01 am

    Jellied pork legs!!! Ack! OK, when I was in college, I spent some time living in Ukraine and a friend would invite me to his home for dinner. His mother always made a dish that I can only describe as chicken jello. Chicken legs suspended in jello. It looks a lot like your jellied pork legs. While I appreciate the fact that she wanted to make me dinner, I could never bring myself to gag down another bite of chicken jello after my first try. Now I’m married to a Chinese man whose family serves me chicken feet. I should have been nicer to the Ukrainian. The strangest thing Americans have is the Big Mac. Probably doesn’t contain any beef at all.
    Jen of PIWTPITT.com recently posted…Me – At Zen MassageMy Profile

    • Reply Olga Mecking June 19, 2014 at 11:54 am

      Hi Jen, thank you for your comment. Yes that chicken jello is quite similar to the pork legs, it just has chicken instead of pork. Would work just as well I suppose. Your Ukraine story is hilarious and I suppose your chicken feet were the punishment for not eating the chicken jello- Ukrainian cuisine is quite similar to Polish cuisine. The Big Mac, really? Isn’t it the Amerianiest food like ever?

  • Reply Ilze June 19, 2014 at 2:48 pm

    Polish cuisine is more similar to the Latvian one than I would’ve thought. I would eat my bread with sour cream and sugar though 🙂 And speaking of sour cream, I’ve achieved that Daniel adds a spoon or two of sour cream to every soup and stew and even complains if there happens to be no sour cream in the fridge!
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  • Reply Kalina June 24, 2014 at 11:27 pm

    Same pyszności! Jeszcze bardziej nie mogę się doczekać wyjazdu do Polski!
    To prawda, ze co dla mnie zawsze było zwykłym jedzeniem spotyka się ze zdziwieniem, często krzywa mina za granica. Rownież w zależności od kraju rożne Polskie zwyczaje kulinarne są bardziej lub mniej egzotyczne. Do niedawna mieszkałam w USA gdzie wszelkie “kieszonki” są zupełnie nie znane a podroby najcześciej budzą obrzydzenie, żeby nie wspomnieć o kaszance lub smalcu. Pierogi, kluski itp są natomiast całkiem popularne (dzięki Polonii) i raczej lubiane. Obecnie mieszkam w Francji i tu podroby sa przysmakiem natomiast szynka na śniadanie budzi zaskoczenie. Osobiście chętnie próbuje nowych smaków i zachęcam nie polskich znajomych do spróbowania naszej kuchni ( z rożnym efektem) Barszcz jak do tej pory wydaje sie być najbardziej lubianym przez naszych gości polskim daniem.
    Pozdrawiam,
    Kalina

    • Reply Olga Mecking June 26, 2014 at 8:27 am

      Hej Kalina, dziękuję za komentarz. O ,kiszonki, mniam mniam mniam! A w Kanadzie jadłam pierogi z supermarketu ale… z serem cheddar! Sama rozumiesz, że byłam zaskoczona! Ja też lubię próbować nowych smaków!

  • Reply Crystal @ Crystal's Tiny Treasures June 27, 2014 at 7:51 pm

    I HAD to read this when I saw it on G+! I’m from Canada but currently living in Northern Ireland where there isn’t much variety in foods.
    Funnily enough, most of those foods aren’t too strange to me. (But it could be because y dad was brought up by Polish-Ukranian parents. Ok, I couldn’t eat the jellied pig, though my dad loves what’s called ‘head cheese’ in Canada. It’s not cheese at all, but perhaps similar to the jellied pork .
    I found some strawberry pirogies in the shop not long ago so we had to try them out-not too bad, but I still enjoy potato and cheddar the best.
    I remember staying with my aunt for 2 weeks when I was quite young and she made borscht – and we ate it every day the entire time…it was nice the first night, but put me off it until I tried it again 2 years ago when Mom made it during our visit home. I hope to try to make it myself this year (and use the leaves to stuff with dough to make beet rolls).
    In Japan lemon tea is popular (it’s Ceylon tea with a slice of lemon and a touch of sugar) and I now make it here. Hot in the winter and cold in the summer. Do you use Ceylon tea, or just ‘regular’ tea?
    One thing I REALLY miss is my mom’s homemade dill pickles, the closest I can find are Polish pickles in specialty shops, but the bought ones are never as ‘strong’ as homemade. I’ve also never seen sourdough bread here, and I miss it, too! Dad LOVES saurkraut, but I’ve never really aquired the taste for it, but I don’t consider it ‘strange’.
    I’ve heard of bigos but haven’t yet tried to make it myself.
    I suppose maybe I do have a little Polish background in me- food-wise anyway! Yeah!
    I have tried making a couple of things for my in-laws, but they weren’t well-received-they like to stick with what they know-ut they don’t know what they’re missing!
    There isn’t too much ‘strange’ here in Northern Ireland. Though for the first time I did try a Scotch egg earlier this week. It’s a hard-boiled egg, wrapped in sausage meat and bread crumbs and deep fried. Usually they don’t look appetising to me at all, but the sample I had at our local bakery was quite good! I may actually try it again (from there) in the future.
    When I was in Japan I tried cow’s tongue (it’s ok if it’s done right, if not it’s awful), and horse meat (like cow but very tough), raw octopus (surprisingly nice).
    Thank you very much for sharing this piece of your life with us, I’ve really enjoyed it!

  • Reply Bronwyn Joy June 28, 2014 at 3:07 pm

    Tea with lemon is common in Singapore! (But it’s iced, so not sure that counts 🙂 )

    It’s actually funny how what you thought was “normal” turns out to be a very local custom sometimes. This is how learning about the world teaches us not to take things for granted!
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  • Reply IchBinOlga July 11, 2014 at 10:56 pm

    It sounds more like Lithuanian or Latvian food actually 🙂 I associate cream with Lithuanian food, ’cause when I studied Lithuanian language our tutor described Lithuanian cuisine as a “cream puddle” :)) Everything soaked in 30% cream. I wish I had their metabolism! 🙂

    When I moved to Germany, I was shocked by the fact that they seldom drink tea with lemon. Of course they are adamant coffee drinkers, but hey, who would have thought that there is such a gigantic difference in the way tea is served.

    • Reply Olga Mecking July 14, 2014 at 9:14 am

      Oh cream is quite generously used in Polish food as well, either sweet or sour but it will be almost everywhere! But that being said, Polish and Lithuanian cuisines have many similarities so it’s no wonder. As for tea with lemon- I was thinking the same thing that tea with lemon is just the way tea is served! So far I’ve learned to appreciate tea in all its varieties! Love it!

  • Reply Anna Lysakowska August 12, 2014 at 9:17 am

    Haha, I guess your post must have freaked some people out. I actually wrote a similar post (http://annaeverywhere.com/12-weird-polish-dishes-2/ ) and most people’s reaction was: how can you eat such things? 😉
    Anna Lysakowska recently posted…How and who I’ve lived with for the last 10 yearsMy Profile

    • Reply Olga Mecking August 12, 2014 at 11:27 am

      Hi Anna, welcome! Actually, I googled weird Polish food and came accross your post and loved it. Except I wrote about things that are weird and that I actually eat. I guess it’s a matter of perspective: we also consider some of the food other nation eats, weird!

  • Reply Gosia Julia August 21, 2014 at 10:16 am

    Nice post and a very interesting look at the Polish cuisine, Olga! It did make me smile 🙂 Being Polish too, I can definitely back up your points number 1. and 7. 🙂 As much as I’ve been confronted with a surprise while I was drinking black tea with a lemon, I’ve never looked at ‘barszcz’ soup through it’s colour. In fact, I’ve come across many foreigners knowing and loving our beet root soup 🙂 Another thing is, that it varies from taste to taste – I’ve never eaten either bread with sugar nor jellied pork legs 😉
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    • Reply Olga Mecking August 21, 2014 at 12:06 pm

      Thank you, Gosia. Maybe, as POlish cuisine got more famous around the world, people stopped wondering at the barszcz colour- and I’m glad! I also only had bread with sugar at summer camps, never at home. Like the jellied pork legs though but I know now everyone does.

  • Reply Gosia Julia August 22, 2014 at 2:41 pm

    Regarding the jellied pork legs – the reason why I’ve never eaten it is that I’ve always been sort of vegetarian. I used to eat meat occasionally, having periods of switching to eating fish and poultry only and eating only fish some 4 years ago. It’s probably due to my eating habits that I didn’t dare to try something so to say – a little less usual – if you know what I mean 🙂 Talking of ‘sweat’ bread, I love eating it with cream cheese and honey, what seemed very strange to my previous Italian flatmate once 😉
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    • Reply Olga Mecking August 23, 2014 at 10:13 am

      Hi Gosia, I understand. Poland is supposedly very hard on vegetarian. I even read an article where someone ordered something without meat and the lady serving the lunch said, “I just added the sauce to your potatoes, but there’s no meat in it”. There were no pieces of meat but the sauce was meaty of course! I love bread with twaróg and honey! Yum!

  • Reply Gosia Julia August 25, 2014 at 4:45 pm

    Yes, this is so funny the way they ‘smuggle’ some meat into your dish 😉 I’m not a ‘radical’ vegetarian, and for instance, I would have probably eaten that rather than complained about that lady 🙂
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    • Reply Olga Mecking August 27, 2014 at 9:51 am

      Yes me too but then I am not a vegetarian at all! 😀

  • Reply Ina September 25, 2014 at 10:56 am

    Actually barszcz is not served at the diplomatic meetings not because of its colour, but because the colour carries over to…well, it does not get digested, and the person who consumed it does not remember about it a day of so afterwards, and might think be seriously scared when going to the bathroom. So, foreign guests, do not freak out when it happens.

    • Reply Olga Mecking September 29, 2014 at 8:41 am

      Hi Ina, thanks for the explanation. I had no idea! Oh the things you can learn! It has never happened to me though. But I understand that it can be scary…

  • Reply Ina September 25, 2014 at 10:59 am

    Ah, and I have never eaten bread with sugar and I only learned about it as an adult. I think it might be regional, or originated in the villages – my whole family is city-born.

    • Reply Olga Mecking September 29, 2014 at 8:41 am

      So is mine this is why I always ate bread with sugar at summer camp instead of at home. I would have never even considered that!

  • Reply eSpectacularKids December 17, 2014 at 8:39 pm

    this makes me so hungry and nostalgic at the same time! I had two Polish grandparents so was brought up in Australia on Polish food. There is nothing like Polish pickles and dumplings! While they didn’t make borschtsh too much, I learned to make it later in life and love it! I often make it for guests as the colour always causes a bit of a stir 🙂
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  • Reply All'ingrosso New Balance Bianco Blu Uomo Jogging 1296 June 20, 2015 at 4:32 pm

    I was wondering if you ever thought of changing the layout of your blog? Its very well written; I love what youve got to say. But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with it better. Youve got an awful lot of text for only having one or two images. Maybe you could space it out better?

  • Reply rosie June 16, 2016 at 5:07 pm

    Thanks for opening my eyes to this! Never would have thought of these, maybe I will try some soon. I’ve also written a similar post about foods you didn’t know you could eat.

  • Reply Ed Pierzynski December 11, 2016 at 2:10 am

    Let’s not forget czarnina. Even many Poles won’t eat this duck soup made with broth that includes noodles, prunes and duck’s blood. Your family had to come from the region that made it, but even then it didn’t make it into norm of most families cuisine. Plus, with health regulations it is extremely difficult to find the ducks blood. I am one of the few that does enjoy it.

  • Reply Grazyna May 5, 2017 at 4:28 am

    I love “zimne nozki.” I live in USA and there is not a polish community where I live. I was not making them for a long time. Cooking it just for me and my husband didn’t make any sense. Then one day I had an idea. I cooked a batch and divided it into smaller portions and froze them in small bags. Now we can have it on demand. I defrost a bag, boil it for few minutes, put it in the small bowl and wait until it sets in the fridge. I like to serve it with horseradish but if I don’t have it I just use some cider vinegar.

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