Saturday, June 25, 2011

Polish Dining: Cabbage And Duck Blood Soup

Rachel Glogowski / Youth Journalism International

By Rachel Glogowski
Associate Editor
Youth Journalism International

BRODNICA, Poland – Okay, now to address the topic that perhaps worries me most every time I walk out my door, never mind leave the country. No, it’s not airborne illness. (Although that may be Number Two on my list.) It’s food.
Being the picky baby that I am, I couldn’t help but wonder what I’d eat and when while in Poland. Without a doubt, I knew I wouldn’t starve here. I’ve been exposed to many an authentic Polish dish over the course of my short life.
Due my growing up with two very talented cooks as grandmothers, the word “pierogi” is part of common parlance around the Glogowski household. However, still wary of some of the more unique aspects of Polish cuisine, I was surprised to find that there’s a whole host of American foods, brands, and restaurants here. I even found a few sushi places in the larger cities!
However, even in the face of modernization or globalization or whatever you would call the phenomenon of increasingly Americanized foods, Poland certainly has still maintained its character cuisine. Here’s a breakdown of some typical Polish drinks and foods (and one or two particularly unique dishes), but first a word about mealtimes:
In Poland, people typically eat three times a day. But rather than the American breakfast-lunch-dinner system, Poles insist that they don’t eat lunch. Instead, they have obiad – a kind of small dinner around noon to tide stomachs over until supper. Supper, called kolacja, is the American equivalent of dinner and is typically a bigger meal served later in the evening.
Tea for two…
Or three. Meals a day, that is. Tea or coffee – herbata i kawa – are mealtime (and in-between-mealtime) staples in Poland. They’re offered and served all the time, both in restaurants and homes. It’s not typical or advisable to drink tap water here unless it’s boiled so it makes sense for people to add some flavor to their hot water and turn it into tea or coffee.

Rachel Glogowski / Youth Journalism International
Something that I was particularly surprised to find is that espresso is perhaps more popular here than coffee. Upon further consideration, I’m not sure why I was surprised it’s such a big thing here – espresso probably made its way from Italy over to Poland much faster than it crossed the Atlantic over to the U.S. But still, it was interesting to see that even the equivalent of American diners serve lattes and cappuccino here.
Boysenberry – it isn’t too scary
Boysenberry juice is a new thing for me. It’s some sort of hybrid between cranberry juice and blueberry juice that’s better than either of the two. And it’s certainly better than its name, which sounds remarkably like “poison,” suggests.
Pierogi: Polish pockets of paradise
These little dumplings are perhaps the most famous, and delicious, of Polish dishes. Often in the shapes of little triangles or semi-circles, these guys come filled with just about everything and anything: ground meat, cheese, potato, fried onions, or – my personal favorite – fruit.
It’s my understanding that pierogi (pretty much pronounced as it’s spelled: “pier-oh-ghee”) is particularly popular during the holidays and especially on Christmas Eve, when some of the more traditional Catholic Poles refrain from eating meat. What surprises me about these little pockets of heaven is that I’ve been in Poland for a week now and still haven’t had one.
Top crop: Kapusta
Somehow cabbage, or kapusta, manages to find its way into nearly every dinner spread here. Served with meat or on its own in a type of salad, it is everywhere. It also comes in a popular Polish dish, bigos (“bee-gose”), which is a type of stew with potatoes and sausage. I was not particularly surprised to hear that it’s Poland’s top crop (probably right above the potato on the list).
Neat beets
Speaking of vegetables, beets are also more popular here than back in the States. They’re often made into a type of beet soup, called barszcz.
Doe, a deer…
It must be very difficult to be a vegetarian around here. Meat is also served all the time. But I’ve seen a few fairly unusual things offered in restaurants here, including boar meat and lots of tripe, called flaki. I was particularly amused to see one menu differentiate between “doe meat” and “deer meat.” In America, we just call it roadkill. (Just joking, of course. Too bad there’s no typed equivalent of a rim shot.)
It’s in my blood … soup

Rachel Glogowski / Youth Journalism International
That’s right. Duck blood soup. Called czarnina (“char-nee-na”), this is one unique dish for the more adventurous traveler or perhaps more traditional Pole. By my own extensive polls of Poles (in other words, questioning a handful of family members), I’d say people are split on whether or not they eat this dish. Some here hate it, some think it’s quite ducky.

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