Flavours from home- Harvest Festival

Oh the Harvest Festival is over. Time to relax and reflect.

This year was extra special and nerve wrecking for me. I decided to bring “Flavours from home”- my home in Poland to Momo. Why? Why now?

Last year I went for the first time to “Food on the Edge” Galway

The slogan was ” I’m an immigrant”… and I’m an immigrant, potato is an immigrant too…

That slogan really stuck in my head straight away.

I feel here at home, it is my home. I’m in Waterford nearly 15 years… the longest I ever lived in one place… but I will never be Irish. When I came to Ireland as a young woman- I didn’t feel proud of my heritage. I know that I wasn’t alone. I was talking with my polish friends ( living in Ireland) couple of years ago about what we called “polish complex”. I have nothing to be ashamed of, I was never being treated badly in Ireland, I was safe in my homeland, I didn’t have to leave home… Why I feel like I’m not good enough? Why being polish made me feel like I’m just not so cool? I always hated the question “where are you from”? Why? Why I didn’t want to embrace my heritage before? Polish history is complicated. I was born during the communism. There was no freedom, no access to outside world. We were locked up behind the Iron Curtain. Western Europe was very exotic. We were dreaming about freedom of expressing ourself. We couldn’t travel outside the Soviet Block. Communism was killing our culture, pride, confidence. When the communism was over and the door to the world open- we felt like we were behind- the world was getting more colorful while we were living in a gray Poland. We felt embarrassed, not cool at all! We did catch up with the rest of the world- in technology, art, architecture etc., but now some of us have to learn “how to be proud of our heritage” and show it to the rest of the world. Adrian & Matylda were talking about it on Food on the Edge 2017, how the young generation of polish people (“Millennium paradox”) feel lost, crave roots, and feel striped out of heritage.

Abeer Najjar talk about being an immigrant. About how I feel, about how it is to be an immigrant, how to keep culture alive away from home. She made me cry, she made me feel guilty of not embrace my heritage, she made me THINK. Thank you Abeer. Food on the Edge opened my eyes, my heart. It was truly inspiring. The same day I got into a conversation with Maksut Askar about stuffed cabbage rolls- he described it as popular Anatolian dish, but GOŁĄBKI (stuffed cabbage rolls) are a very popular Polish dish. So who was right? Does food travel? Do we learn from each other? The same dish we can find in many countries- we all believe that is ours. History of cabbage rolls

I wanted to make my grandmother proud. I wanted to cook from the heart and showcase myself through food. Each dish meant so much to me. It was all very emotional process. I did overthink everything hundreds of times. I wanted to do it right.

My grandmother Helena was a very strong, independent woman. She was brave, she was clever and she passed to me some of her knowledge about food and all the love for food. She taught me how to appreciate good produce, how to forage, how to respect food. I got her recipe books and I treasure them.

Thank you “babciu” ( grandma).

The evening itself was very stressful, but I did enjoy it. I was brave enough to serve each dish to our guests. Each dish had a very special place in my heart.

I didn’t do it all by myself. I had amazing help and support from our kitchen team- Michal (our head chef- from Slovakia), Jurej (from Slovakia) & Bogdan (from Romania)- chefs and Beata (from Poland) kitchen porter. Michal kept me calm, organized more-less everything, ordered all the ingredients, Jurej, Bogdan and Beata helped with the preparation. For the first time since we opened Momo- our kitchen was full of immigrants.

We started evening with sourdough with cumin seeds, pork fat spread, bean& buckwheat spread and of course pickles- it was a taste of my student times- working late in the pub, eating stale bread and just being carefree. Next we served soup. I wanted to taste like cozy, comfy hug… and the smell of dried wild mushrooms brought us there.

Next- Gołąbki. We had serious discussion during preparation-what is “the right way” to do it. We all know the dish- just the name of it is different. Compromise was made. Gołąbki are the perfect example that food travels and we are closer to each other than we think. We all might have a slightly different approach, but the goal is the same- we all just want to eat good food in good company- no matter where we are from.

Next- my idea- Michal’s creation. Pork loin stuffed with apricots. My grandmother’s favorite fruit. Apricot jam- my childhood memory of the summer in the jar. Stuffed pork loin was prepared in our home for special occasions, birthdays, parties, celebrations. For me- it was a perfect dish for the evening. It was delicious- thank you Michal.

Dessert time- in Poland we eat cakes! We love cakes- fruit cakes, nut cakes, cream cakes, cheesecakes- we eat them all! I decided to bake a cake from my great grandmother recipe notebook. Plum cake taste like harvest… so I decided to bake “Yeast plum cake”. This is the recipe I used….it is not exactly recipe for a plum cake, but I cannot just follow the recipe- have to do my own thing…. If you are polish( or can read Polish) you can see that there is no really method of preparation…This cake gave me sleepless nights, 2 attempts…. a phone call to my stepmom ( she gave me the method and saved the plum cake from disaster) and now I’m an expert in baking “yeast cake”…

Michal baked a delicious “apple cake”, my dad gave me a bottle of his homemade “honey liquor” and I believe nobody left hungry…

Thank you to my irish family ( a specially Harry) for tasting my disasters and failed attempts… Thank you Michal Buchta (our head chef) who helped me to prepare the meal, kept me calm and served delicious food. Thank you all who came to Momo that evening and tasted my Flavours from Home. Thank you Abeer and Maksut for an inspiration. Thank you to all my polish friends in Ireland- specially Agnes & Magda ❤️

Lots of love