I really liked Polish cuisine, it is varied and excellent. Poles love good well prepared food and Polish cuisine has many delicacies, depending on the Seasons and the Holidays, New Year, Easter, Christmas, etc….
Our house was on Ulica Dabrowiecka 8, Saska Kepa, in Warszawa. A very nice house it had 3 floors and a large finished basement with garage. The garden was also quite large and one section had large ornamental bushes that needed bi-monthly trimming and flower beds etc. this is where I would hire the gardener of the Ambassador to help out with this work.
We had a housekeeper Kristina, a statuesque woman who had just buried husband number 3 and was now going out with a Polish Senator. She also had Baboon red ass hair. She was a superb cook and housekeeper and was very organized, you just left it to her and she too care of everything. She also took care of our two dachshunds or Jamniki in Polish, our short hair Bundnie and long hair Reesie. She spoiled them rotten and would constantly talk to them and feed them whatever she was cooking. Little morcels of food, being Jamnikis of course they loved it.
The best of course was at Christmas, galaretka was my favourite it reminded me of dishes my grandmother prepared for our Christmases in Montreal. Galaretka of chicken or Carp fish filet. It is an Aspic (jellied) dish of Carp filet. The preparation of the Carp is quite interesting.
Many of the ponds and streams of the Royal Palaces in Warsaw all have giant Carp fish, they are quite big, the size of a large Catfish with a huge mouth. It is said that Carp can live a very long life, there was a story I remember hearing from one of the keepers of the Garden’s at Versailles that up to 1900 you could find Carps who had known the days of Marie-Antoinette, that would make them 130 years old. Now I do not know if this is true of not but I do not see why not since they have no predators in these big ponds and the water is constantly refreshed because they are fed by streams running through the palace grounds. It is a bottom feeder so they live off of many things.
So for Christmas one of the popular dishes is Carp and it is prepared in many different ways, the one I especially like is Karp w Galaretka, (Carp in Aspic jelly). I asked Kristina if she could do that for us, of course and then she went on to tell me, as was her fashion all the other dishes she would prepare for us. Feeding an army was her hobby, but there was only 2 of us.
She went to the market and bought several live Carps, now the trick, I kid you not, is to keep the Carp alive in your bathtub until the day you need to prepare the dish. This is what she did like all other Poles I knew did. Then on the appointed day you take a baseball bat or something similar and you kill the fish by hitting it on the head, proceeding to then gut and clean it and proceed to make your Karp W Galaretka.
Other dishes where various soups like Borscht, hers was very good, and desserts, so many desserts and salads made with beets, carrots and various style of coleslaw. Her meat pirogies were also quite good.
One sweet I always liked were Paczki (pronounced punch-key) a doughnut filled with cream or jam. Now there are special places to buy these Paczki in Warsaw, bakeries who specialize in them and they must be very fresh, everyone I knew had a special address of a bakery that made the best. There was one in Saska Kepa about 3 blocks from my home, I would go there to buy Paczki. There was at 33 Nowy Swiat street near the Rondo de Gaulle’a, Blikle Cafe, I never found it to be that good. There is also E. Wedel an old family chocolatier and pastry place, they had apparently the best pastries, I was not sold on them either and found better elsewhere, though their chocolates were good. In Poland it is often best to go with Polish friends who have lived in Warsaw and know where Babcha would go and shop, those are the best places.
In Poland when you are having a pastry have a cup or pot of Tea, coffee is not a Polish thing at all. I say this because in the Epic Poem Pan Tadeusz by Adam Mickiewicz, there is a famous passage which makes any Pole smile, Takiej kawy jak w Polszcze hie ma w żadnym kraju... . It makes me smile too, the translation reads; In no other country is there such coffee as in Poland, the text then goes on to say; In Poland, in a respectable household, a special woman is, by ancient custom,
charged with the preparation of coffee. She is called the coffee-
maker; she brings from the city, or gets from the river barges,
berries of the finest sort, and she knows secret ways of preparing
the drink, which is black as coal, transparent as amber, fragrant
as mocha, and thick as honey. Everybody knows how necessary
for coffee is good cream: in the country this is not hard to get
for the coffee-maker, early in the day, after setting her pots on
the fire, visits the dairy, and with her own hands lightly skims
the fresh flower of the milk into a separate little jug for each cup.
I am sure this secret recipe was lost somewhere under the Communist. If you have a chance do read Mickiewicz, Pan Tadeusz, it is a magnificent work of literature.