Anne Applebaum – „From a Polish Country House Kitchen” (1)

f-polish-kitchen   – Highlight Loc. 128-31: “How many recipes can you get out of boiled potatoes?” Unfortunately for many of us, including the millions of North Americans with Polish ancestry, the very term “Polish cooking” conjures up memories of heavy, greasy dishes: the food of exile and poverty. And as Anne notes in her introduction, the reputation of Polish cooking was not enhanced by forty-five years of communism.
– Highlight Loc. 145-47 : The pierogi, or potato dumplings, that you can buy from supermarket freezers in North America, in no way resembled the delicate dumplings we were served in even the most modest of restaurant kitchens. These pierogi weren’t doughy or oily or overstuffed with bland cheese. As delicate and translucent as Hong Kong’s finest dim sum, they contained all sorts of original fillings.
– Highlight Loc. 161-62 : Anyone who has ever grown something as simple as a cherry tomato on her city patio knows that her sweet and juicy little crop in no way resembles the waxy red marbles the supermarkets sell in January.
– Highlight Loc. 179-81: “Commies love concrete,” wrote P. J. O’Rourke in his classic account of a visit to Poland in the drab 1980s. “Everything is made of it: streets, buildings, floors, walls, ceilings, roofs, window frames, lamp posts, statues, benches, plus some of the food, I think.”
– Highlight Loc. 182-84: Before 1989, Poland was a country of strikes, electricity cuts, and shortages. Polish grocery stores contained salt, canned fish, vinegar, and not much else. In Polish restaurants, sullen waiters handed their customers long menus, invariably featuring dishes that were not available.
– Highlight Loc. 188-90 : For a brief period in the late 1980s and early 1990s, just as communism was collapsing and the free market was taking over, a jar of black Beluga caviar that would empty a wallet in London or Paris could be purchased in Warsaw’s Polna market for a handful of change.
– Highlight Loc. 196-98 : The most fashionable Warsaw and Krakow restaurants no longer serve foreign food with fancy names. They serve szmalec, an old-fashioned peasant spread made of pork fat, instead of butter. They offer black bread to spread it on, instead of baguettes. They make robust pork and duck dishes instead of grilled tuna and wasabi,
– Highlight Loc. 209-10 : Outside the major cities, provincial restaurants—karczmy— now serve soup and pickles instead of hamburgers.
– Highlight Loc. 228-30 : Historically, Poles also had a fondness for foreign queens and imported monarchs. This means that foreign influences—Russian, German, Swedish, French, Italian, Hungarian, and even English—can all be found in Polish cooking, as in Polish culture.
– Highlight Loc. 261-64 : …as well as the overlap between Polish and Jewish culture—and have tried to explore it as much as possible. The first time I was ever invited to a Polish Easter breakfast, I was amazed by the many parallels with Passover. Both holidays celebrate eggs, both include symbols of rebirth and spring, and at both holiday tables you are likely to find beets, horseradish, and other spring vegetables.
– Highlight Loc. 296-99 : Once upon a time, sturgeon swam in the Vistula River and Poles ate caviar in abundance, just as the English working classes once ate oysters. Nowadays most caviar eaten in Poland comes from Russia, and more specifically from the Volga River. The Volga is—or used to be—one of the world’s greatest breeding grounds for sturgeon, the ugly, prehistoric, bottom-dwelling fish whose black eggs have been strained, salted, and eaten since ancient times.
anneapplebaum_b    – Highlight Loc. 364-65 : A recipe for eggplant “caviar” that is served in both Russia and Poland as an hors d’oeuvre or as a zakuski, a kind of snack eaten with vodka.
– Highlight Loc. 365-67 : Eggplant caviar is found in French and Mediterranean cooking, but we suspect that the true ethnic origins of this particular recipe are Georgian. It certainly has the sharpness and flavor that everyone in the region associates with Georgian food (and with Georgian politics), both of which appeal to Poland’s romantic sensibility.
– Highlight Loc. 439-44 : According to legend, steak tartare is named after the Tatars, nomadic horsemen who, at the battle of Grunwald in 1410, famously sided with the Polish king against the Germanic Teutonic Knights. The Poles won that battle, which marked the beginning of the rise of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, a loose empire that ruled eastern Central Europe until the end of the eighteenth century. The Tatars, though Muslim, had special status in the empire, and a few Tatar villages still survive in eastern Poland. Allegedly, the Tatar warriors ate raw meat because they had no time to stop and cook; they are said to have tenderized the meat by carrying it all day under their saddles.
– Highlight Loc. 564-67 : It’s hard to imagine a summer in the country without chłodnik: Icy cold, tasting of fresh dill and kefir (or light yogurt), with a glimmer of sweet beets and crunchy cucumbers. It is the most refreshing food you can possibly eat on a hot afternoon. The color—light pink, with flecks of green—is elegant enough to serve as the first course of a formal lunch, though chłodnik can also be eaten on its own as a light supper.
– Highlight Loc. 841-51: Unlike packaged noodles, these noodles are made directly in the boiling soup, and are served immediately along with it. All noodle recipes of this kind call for eggs and flour, but in our view, the perfect proportions and most legible instructions are found in Hanna Szymanderska’s Polska Kuchnia Tradycjna. 2 large eggs 1 tbsp water Pinch of salt Pinch of sugar 3 to 4 tbsp sifted all-purpose flour Chicken Soup (page 80; see Note) Crack both eggs into a small mixing bowl. Add the water, salt, and sugar and mix very well with a fork. Slowly add the flour bit by bit—you don’t want to create lumps—mixing vigorously all the while. When the mixture is ready, it will resemble pancake batter and should be liquidy enough to drip slowly from a spoon. Bring the chicken soup to a boil. Hold your bowl close to the boiling broth, and using a wooden spoon, slowly drizzle the batter into the soup so that it makes long, curly noodles. Using a fork, separate the noodles and let them boil for about 5 minutes. Remove the soup from the heat and serve immediately.

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