Polish restaurants are wonderful, If you are dining out be prepared to be amazed, if you see something on the menu that you can’t pronounce, go ahead and order it anyway, your taste buds will love you for it. Sometimes the food can look a bit bland (I’m thinking pierogi here…) but believe me, it tastes very good. To a British person the sound of beetroot soup may well cause fear and dread but once you taste it you will wonder where this elixir has been all your life.
Be careful though, the portion control can sometimes be a bit hit-and-miss. I was treated one day to a dish called Golonka which consisted of a gigantic pork knuckle with a sort of honey glaze and not much else. It was a dish to be shared between two people and as luck would have it I was with another person. I bravely sliced into it, with the especially sharp carving knife supplied and did my utmost to eat at least the greater portion of what was on offer; in fact my female co-diner insisted that I eat more than she did. It was delicious, that goes without saying but there was an awful lot of it.
Eventually we had to admit defeat. When the waiter came to clear away the plates, and the wooden platter upon which the knuckle had been served, he erected a small folding table affair in the middle of the area in which we were sitting and placed the empty plates and not so empty wooden platter upon this table as if to say, “Look, they couldn’t finish it”. I imagined that other diners were casting reproachful eyes in our direction.
Another lesson I have learned is to ask for the bill early. If you are going to have dessert, ask for the bill when you order your choice of sweet, if you are not having a dessert ask for it about half way through the main course, that way it may arrive just about as you are ready to leave.
Most Poles (that I have met) are obsessed with coffee, this is fine because in Poland they know how to make good coffee. If you just ask for coffee, “Proszę kawa” then you will get black coffee; this is also fine because it tastes good. If you want coffee with milk then you must ask for coffee with milk, “Proszę kawa z mlekiem”. If you want a double skinny Frappuccino with chocolate sprinkles then you’d best go to Costa or Starbucks but you’d be missing the point…
“Kurwa”, this useful little word sounds (to English ears) a bit like the Polish word for coffee (kawa) and can be used almost interchangeably. You hear it all the time in cafés, bars and restaurants;
“No proszę, kurwa”
“Czy masz kurwa?”
“Gdzie jest mój kurwa?”
“Kurwa z mlekiem proszę” etc.
Consider the following exchange:
“No to kawa.”
“Nie ma kawa.”
This is, believe me, a bad state of affairs, there is no coffee.
If you like plain black coffee then ordering it in Poland is so simple,
“Tak, oczywiście, już podaję.”
Ordering the same in Britain is far more convoluted.
“Plain black coffee please.”
“Is that plain black coffee?”
“OK, I’ll have a plain black coffee please.”
“Would you like milk with that?”
And so on…
All of which leads me to this:
These delicious pies are originally from the Uwaga region in the south east of Poland around Rzeszów but can be found throughout the country. Originally made as food for the family’s pet dog but using only the finest ingredients; pork and potatoes, these pies are now a firm favourite with people too.
The Uwaga Pie story is also symptomatic of a resurgent, post-communist Poland burgeoning with private enterprise. Many private houses sell them from their gardens where signs proclaiming “Uwaga Pies” usually with a picture of a dog, can be seen on garden fences and gates.
OK, I may have made up some of that last bit… or maybe not, it’s for you to decide [wink emoticon].