Breakfast and bread

Breakfast and bread

By
Zuza Zak
Contains
16 recipes
Published by
Quadrille Publishing
ISBN
9781849497268
Photographer
Laura Edwards

Breakfast

Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day and it’s the main reason I get out of bed in the morning, especially when I’m at my family home in Poland, as my mother prepares it every morning. Whenever my brother and I return home, it’s treated as a special occasion by my parents, judging by the breakfast feasts they prepare. It’s an ancient, unwritten law of Polish hospitality that makes us treat the arrival of guests as an opportunity for a celebration – as well as our natural inclination to enjoy the smaller things in life.

The Polish breakfast is a brunch-esque affair, it can be sweet or savoury and often both. The range of recipes that are considered to be typical Polish breakfast fare are vast and varied, depending on which part of Poland you find yourself in. While my late grandma, Babcia Ziuta, always started the day with sweet kasza (semolina porridge), my Babcia Halinka (my other grandma), always preferred open sandwiches (kanapki) – which are fresh slices of rye bread with cold cuts of meat on a base of crunchy salad leaves and onion-sprinkled tomatoes, homemade gherkins and marinated red peppers. Whereas most working Polish men will not be satisfied until they get their share of protein in the morning; therefore scrambled eggs will be eaten in their homes for breakfast, with onion, tomatoes, chanterelles or crispy fried pieces of dried Polish sausage. It’s also completely normal to find Polish breakfast tables filled with many different things; breads, cold cuts of meats, salads, cheeses and sweet cakes. The only rule that applies across the board for Polish breakfasts is that there must be one warm dish, be it eggs, frankfurters, breakfast soup, omelette or kaszanka (black pudding/blood sausage made with toasted buckwheat groats).

One thing is clear: breakfast is a vital meal in this part of the world and plays a large part in our festive seasons such as Christmas, Easter and other national celebrations. For when we breakfast we ‘break’ our ‘fast’, and due to the Polish cultural emphasis on fasting it makes morning feasting all the more relevant and necessary. For instance, our Christmas breakfast is always a great feast because we have fasted all of Christmas Eve.

We also fast throughout the Lent period and when Easter Sunday finally comes around, we take our eggs and sausages to the Church to be blessed by the priest. We dye our eggs with beetroot juice or onion skins and decorate them with traditional folkloric designs. We then place them all on a lacy, white napkin in a basket, along with some bread, salt and pepper, and anything else that the family feels will make their basket stand out from the other lovingly prepared family Easter baskets (decorations such as sugar lambs, fluffy chicks, catkins from the willow tree and springtime flowers such as daffodils are often used). After their baskets are blessed in Church, the family returns home and eat their boiled eggs with sincere thanks, it is a breakfast rich in food and national symbolism.

Bread

“O good bread, when it is given to guests with salt and good will.”

{Wespazjan Kochowski}

In the olden days, bread with salt was given to guests as they arrived at your home as a mark of respect and goodwill. It’s a symbolic gesture that is still repeated to this day in many different guises. In the cellars of Warsaw Old Town, where the famous basilisk was once said to have roamed, which now houses many traditional Polish restaurants, bread with pork dripping and gherkins is presented to guests on arrival, to munch on while perusing the menu. The welcoming of guests with bread has morphed in many households into a bringing out of zakąski upon guests arrival, or alternately, open sandwiches kanapki. A symbolic version of this custom is the sharing of holy bread before a Christmas meal, when everyone shares their wishes and hopes for one another in the coming year.

Bakeries in Poland are always full of different types of bread: white country loaves, rye, rye with prunes, spelt, multigrain and that’s just the sourdoughs. Then there are the yeast products too – buns stuffed with bilberries or sweet cinnamon cheese and all sorts of other ready-to-eat delights. By the 14th Century in Kraków (the capital at the time) there were nine different varieties of bread being baked daily and our love affair with bread has only increased since – going to a bakery to buy your daily bread is still an everyday occurrence for Polish people.

“Do kraju gdzie kruszynkę chleba Podnoszą z ziemi przez uszanowanie dla darów Nieba… Tęskno mi Panie.” “Oh Lord how I miss The country where even a crumble of bread Is picked up from the ground out of respect for the gifts from God.”

{Cyprian Norwid Moja Piosenka}

Wheat is perfectly suited to the landscape of this country and has become an intrinsic part of our cuisine. When Christianity was brought into our lands around the year 1000 A.D. bread became a symbol of Christ in communion. Even to this day, bread is still sacred to us, when I was little my grandma Halinka taught me to kiss a piece of bread if it ever fell on the floor, as a mark of respect for all food which feeds and nourishes us. We still hate throwing away stale bread, as superstition tells us it will bring bad luck and hunger. With this reverent attitude to bread bubbling away in our collective subconsciouses, we do various things with stale bread rather than throwing it away, such as making breadcrumbs or adding it to pâtés and soups.

Baking your own own bread is a pleasant, therapeutic, grounding experience that feels good for the soul. It’s going back to basics in the most homely, loving way you possibly can.

Featured Recipes in this Chapter

    No results found
    No more results
      No results found
      No more results
        No results found
        No more results
          No results found
          No more results
            No results found
            No more results
              No results found
              No more results
              Please start typing to begin your search
              We're sorry but we had trouble running your search. Please try again