I spend so much time here banging on about my southern Italian heritage that you may not know I’m a quarter Polish. My paternal grandmother’s family was from Warsaw and, while she made outstanding Italian-American food for Grandpa Parla, Grandma Zamoita also stuffed a mean pierogi and cooked some off-the-charts soup. From her, I inherited an intense love of schmaltz, spirits, and daytime television and, though she never visited Poland, I think she would have felt right at home around all the cheesecake, creamy pastries and butter.
During a trip to Poland last week, I spent time with my friend Aga exploring my overlooked ancestral roots. We split our time between Krakow and the deep south, making it as far as the Slovakian border (pictures above), eating our way through the countryside. Here are a few of our dining highlights:
Chłodnik is a cold yogurt and beetroot soup, and the quintessential summer dish.
And of course we didn’t pass up hot chicken- and pork-based soups.
And then we had more chłodnik.
In Zakopane we shopped for mushrooms in the market.
And ate saffron milk caps, a local season specialty.
Lambchops with garlic in Zakopane.
And Kremówka Papieska (cream pie that was a favorite of the late Pope).
In Aga’s hometown Sucha Beskidzka, her mom made us the most incredible wild blueberry pierogi, crimping the edges as she leared from her mother. We slathered them in cream and doused with liberal spoonfuls of birch sugar.
Grandma Zamoita would have been way into this.