My Food Education (part one)

I would like to tell you my story – my food education story.

Growing up in communistic Poland was challenging and interesting. Food and goods were very limited. Eating well required lots of imagination and work.

My grandmother Helena was definitely my biggest influence. She was born in 1920, went to school in Switzerland in 1937, came back to Poland a day before the Second World War (31/08/1939) began, survived the war, and shared her secrets with me.

My grandmother was a great cook. She loved cream and butter more than anything else. Her dishes were rich and delicious. She would use only 30% fat cream, real homemade butter from our neighbour, and make the most amazing apricot jam. Apricot jam was only for special occasions. She would make around 20 jars a year. Every single one was treated with deserved respect. We did fight over it. Sweet and tangy, with lovely pieces of fruit- the best jam I have ever tasted!

We had a pantry in our kitchen filled with homemade jams, chutneys, pickles, my favourite “pears in vinegar” and even homemade ketchup and fruit syrups.

Everything in our home was made from scratch. My grandmother would make pasta, dry it and store it in a glass jar. Baking was a daily thing. She would bake delicious cakes, biscuits and crackers. ‘Preserve for winter’ was her motto. She would dry or freeze fresh herbs in ice cubes to use during the long winter. She was always prepared. She knew how to forage. She showed me how to do this and where to find wild herbs. Mint, nettles, and yarrow would be used to make salsa verde.

During the summer we would always take a basket for a walk in the forest. Wild strawberries, raspberries and blackberries were waiting to be picked.

Wild mushrooms would grow outside the house. The neighbour would bring eggs, butter, homemade cottage cheese and rye sourdough bread. These are my memories. I loved baking with her;  making ginger bread cookies for Christmas and the cake mix from the bowl.

Hare stew in cream sauce with carrots and greens was our favourite dinner. For years we believed that it was chicken…. Not a hare…

Rabbit paté for Easter. Poppyseed Christmas cake. Yeast dough cake with raisins. There you go; my childhood memories.

This is what I want to give our children; knowledge where the food comes from. How to cook. Experience of flavours and textures. Food needs love and care to nourish us.

Food education should start young! It was always a part of my life and will always be. Food education is nerver ending… We can always learn more, experience new flavours… Learn from each other. History of the world is the history of food.

My grandmother would never really talk about the war, but she would keep the good memories alive. There was always a bottle of Chartreuse in our fridge – her little treat ( and medicine ?) and Dijon mustard. Memories from school in Switzerland. She would tell us a stories about rotten potatoes during the war. They had rotten sweet taste, but during the war it was a delicatessen (what we ate when there was nothing to eat during WWII). I was given my Grandmother’s, and my great grandmother’s, recipe books; hand written recipes collected for years from friends and family.

This is a recipe for “Delicaciese Torte” from Mary with a little note that says “very good”. This is how it was. You would go to your friends house for a party, enjoy the cake and ask for the recipe. It was the great complement for the housewife.

Every family event was a feast! Homemade mayonnaise for vegetable salad (made only few times a year), roast loin of pork stuffed with prunes, horseradish sauce, pickled wild mushrooms, cold meats, salads, cakes and biscuits…

I want to keep the flavours alive forever. I want to learn more; to go back to the basics.

Dill always tastes like home for me.

When I arrived to Ireland (over 13 years ago!) food was my biggest challenge. Over the years, I learned how to appreciate it. I had to start from scratch. In my next post I will write about my food education in Ireland from the perspective of a Polish girl coming to Ireland.

Lots love,