Saturday, May 4, 2013

Book Review: From a Polish Country House Kitchen

After reading Poland by Michener, which I still must review for all the food references, I decided that I would hunt up a Polish cookbook. In one of my feeds, this one came up, From a Polish Country House Kitchen: 90 Recipes for the Ultimate Comfort Food.  It is the result of the authors, Anne Applebaum an Danielle Crittenden, opening a country inn in Poland.

I had mixed feelings about this book. It seems that I share a similar background with one of the writers. Her family came over in the late 1800s and settled in USA. Mine came from 'Australia' and settled in Canada. I suspect it is really Austria giving the partition of Poland at the time.

The ingredients that are used in this book are definitely ones that I am used to such as: cabbage, venison, beets, plum, and mushrooms. Some of the preparations are decidely post WW2 with influences of the new Baltic states. Much of the same trepidation that I have with identifying with Polish heritage is the same issues I have with identifying with this cooking. 

Two issues in general. One is the fact that my family came over with a high number of Kashubs. Much of the dominant culture of the area that I grew up in has that aspect of a certain type of rural cooking.
The second issue is that the language my father spoke is considered Low Polish. It is also over 100 years older than the current language, so many Poles would not consider it Polish. Combine that with the fact that there were few Poles in the area that spoke this variant of Polish but rather Kashub and it muddies the waters. 

Still, when I started making friends with second generation Poles in Ottawa and Toronto, a lot of the same flavours and recipes are still familiar enough to leave echoes of longing. This leaves me with a few new recipes to try with familiar ingredients which I can share with my children.

There are many good recipes to try in the book but I was left with six that I wanted to try. Mustard soup just seems like a strong flavoured and nourishing soup. Another soup that caught my eye is the Sour Bread Soup. I have been playing around with rotting stuff for a while (beer and vinegar come to mind) and this starts out with souring bread and removing the green bits. I so want to try this. Dripped noodles is just that, some noodles made directly into broth. I like noodles a lot but am too lazy to make them. This recipe takes away that excuse. Red fruit salad uses fresh currants. I think it would work with chokecherries as well. It is just a sour and tartness that I like. There are a few more but this listing seems like a bit too much of self indulgence.

If you are interested in Polish food, there are probably other books that you could pick up but the pictures and stories in this one might make you want this one more. A lot of the recipes are interpretations but probably closer to a North American taste profile. This is not a real criticism as many of the headnotes speak about the way that these recipes were collected by watching or asking the people who cooked them how it was done. So many of them were done by feel or eye and that is what made this book appealing to me. Unfortunately, too many of these recipes and flavours are too familiar to me. However, for those just embarking onto a journey of culinarily visiting Poland, then this could be a nice stop at a country inn.

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