Slow Food in Kraków

05 May 2011 5:37 PM | Anonymous
Slow Food in Krakow — Codzienne (Every Day)

 

A Report From Tom Hunter

 

November 1, 2008. My wife, Sue, and I have been living in Kraków Poland since September 1. Sue is busy pursuing a master’s program at the Jagiellonian University here. I’ve had time to get to know the food scene in Kraków, and it’s very rich. Poland’s traditional cuisine is focused on meat dishes, like bigos (hunter’s stew, made from sauerkraut, meat, sausage, maybe venison), gołonka piecona (roasted pig knuckle) and of course pierogi (dumplings filled with meat, potatoes, cabbage & mushroom, and many other varieties). This wonderful medieval city is filled with restaurants offering traditional fare, from inexpensive bar mleczny (milk bars) to karchmas (old-style cellars) and upscale restaurants offering updated versions of traditional fare.

 

 

Slow Food is present in Poland. The local Web site lists many recommended foods, particularly cheese and sausage. One brand of traditional bread is recognized by Slow Food, and I often see it on sale here in Kraków, with a Slow Food label. Slow Food Polska is working to preserve traditional breeds and varieties, such as the Red Polish cow and mountain sheep, as well as apples. Traditional foods, such as oscypek, mountain sheep’s cheese, as well as specific makers of traditional items, like distillers of cordials, are listed and recommended.

 

I’ve enjoyed shopping in the open, traditional markets. Just a 10-minute walk from our flat is Stary Kleparz, a lively, six-day-a-week market, with farmers, greengrocers, meat vendors and bakery stalls. The regular vendors have staked out their prime spots, and I now recognize them and their products. I don’t know whether many of the vendors or shoppers are aware of Slow Food, but traditional, slow food is a regular part of their daily lives.

 

My favorite section is the dairy ladies. They offer their own fresh raw milk (sold in re-used water bottles), thick cream, twarog (white cottage-style cheese), butter as well as homemade liver sausage, cured kiełbasa, dressed chickens, eggs, even mushrooms. The white plastic bags in the picture are all filled with white cheese, cultured to slightly different flavors. Tasting all the variations is a key part of the buying process. Only a small portion of Polish consumers buy their dairy this way, but those who do make it a lively and active part of their lives.

 

 

There is a huge variety of fruit and vegetables on offer, many from Poland or nearby countries, some shipped in from farther afield. Farms in Poland are still small and worked largely by families. Some have put in glass or plastic greenhouses to extend the season — as of the end of October we are still getting fresh raspberries, plums, tomatoes, chestnuts, and a variety of greens and other vegetables. No problem making a salad or a full meal from the variety here, or finding flowers for the table.

 

 
Wild forest mushrooms are a real specialty of Poland. Drive through the countryside and you’ll constantly go through patches of forest, with mushroom sellers camped out along the road. Somehow these small baskets of mushrooms make their way to our local market, and we can choose from five or six varieties at any time. We’ve tried many and found them all different and interesting. We add them to soups and omelets. Our favorites are borowiki, king boletes, simply sauteed in butter, salt and pepper, and then doused with cultured cream; bardzo pyszne, delicious.

 

Sometimes we get something we don’t expect. I have bought some very nice blueberries, and last week I asked for half a kilo of what I thought was the same. When I popped one into my mouth at home, I was surprised to find a large pit. Not blueberries at all, but tarnina, sloes, a plum relative — think sloe gin. They were tasty but very astringent — I puckered right up. Now they’re in the freezer, freezing out the astringency while I decide what to do with them. They’re sitting next to rose hips, also awaiting a plan.

 

Slow Food is very evident in Poland, both in the activities of the organization, and in the ordinary, daily lives of millions of Poles. As the classic Polish invitation to food goes: Smacznego! - Tom Hunter

 SF-Kraków Sister Cities Association
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