Renaissance & Reconstruction
Legend says that a beautiful mermaid asked the fisherman Wars and his wife Sawa to build a city on the River Vistula, and thus was born the city of Warsaw. From Warsaw's rebuilt Old Market Square, virtually leveled in World War II, to Poland's gilded Renaissance palaces, gothic restaurants, rustic-dancing halls and Baltic spas, this country celebrates food with hospitality — the two are inseparable.
Fresh game, Baltic herring, crimson red beet borscht, kielbasa sausages, and meat stuffed pierogies grace the tables. Pastries made with poppy seeds finish the meal or make sweet snacks anytime of day. In the summer, strawberries, cherries and blueberries are harvested in huge amounts, served plain or made into "paczek," as preserves or fillings for donuts.
Poland has long been a center of arts and religions. Chopin was born in Poland, just outside Warsaw, as were other world-reknown creators like Nobel prize-winner Isaac Bashevis Singer and pianist Arthur Rubenstein. Author Jerzy Kosinsky was also born in Poland, but Western audiences may know him best from his classic screenplay "Being There," starring Peter Sellers.
Pope John Paul II was born in Wadowice, a town of 8,000 Catholics and 2,000 Jews near Krakow. Poland's Christians regard Holy Week and Easter as the most important time of the year. The country also has a strong Jewish following. It was Poland's religious tolerance beginning in the 13th Century that attracted a large population of European Jews, who later sadly fell victims to the Holocaust. But much of what are considered typical Jewish dishes today have their roots in the dishes of Poland and Eastern Europe, and the passion for warmth and hospitality of Poles around the world graciously extends its foods well beyond its borders.
During the past centuries, those borders have expanded and contracted like an accordion. But like the unconquerable spirit of the Polish people, the country of Poland and its cuisine have endured.