Polish foods include sausage (kielbasa), dumplings (pierogi), meat-filled dough balls (pyzy), gnocchi (kopytka), cabbage rolls with mince and rice with tomato sauce (gołąbki), herring (śledzie), Hunter’s Stew (bigos), crumbed pork cutlets (schabowy), cheese from the Mountain Region (Oscypek) and much much more. Traditionally soups such as tripe soup (flaki), chicken soup (rosół), cucumber soup (zupa ogórkowa), mushroom soup (zupa grzybowa), soured rye and sausage soup (żurek) and tomato soup (zupa pomidorowa) were prepared in large quantities intended for groups as hospitality is very important in Polish culture.
In the Middle Ages, as the cities of Poland grew larger in size and the food markets developed, a culinary exchange of ideas progressed and people became acquainted with new dishes and recipes. Some regions became well known for the type of sausage they made and many sausages today still carry their original names.
A most important drink is vodka. One of the world’s first documented references of the drink was in 1405 in Akta Grodzkie, the court documents from the Palatinate of Sandomierz in Poland. At the time, the word vodka (wódka), referred to chemical compounds such as medicines and cosmetics’ cleansers, while the popular beverage was called gorzałka (from the Old Polish gorzeć meaning to burn), which is also the source of Ukrainian horilka (горілка). The word vodka written in Cyrillic appeared first in 1533, in relation to a medicinal drink brought from Poland to Russia by the merchants of Kievan Rus’.
Poland is one of Europe’s largest beer producers. Drinking beer was a typical beverage consumed by all during the Middle Ages. Wine is becoming more popular. Polish Mead, a honey wine, was a traditional drink dating back also to the Middle Ages.
Popular drinks are ‘napoje gazowane’ translated as carbonated drinks and ‘napoje bezalkoholowe’ are non-alcoholic drinks like water, tea, juice, coffee or kompot. Kompot is made of fruit boiled with sugar and spices such as clove or cinnamon and can be served hot or cold. It can be made of one type of fruit or a mixture, including apples, peaches, pears, strawberries or sour cherries. Susz is type of kompot made with dried fruits, most commonly apples, apricots, figs. It is traditionally served on Christmas Eve.
Holiday meals include traditional Christmas Eve supper called Wigilia. ‘Tłusty Czwartek’ translates as Fat Thursday and is a Catholic feast celebrated on the last Thursday before Lent. It is a day when people eat a large amount of sweets and cakes that are afterwards forbidden until Easter day.