Housekeeping in Poland

(from the Sun newspaper in Auckland, 27 July 1927, author unnamed.)

Polish Housekeepers

A Polish woman is more than a cook. She is a born connoisseur of good foods, a “gastronome” in the truest sense of the word. If she lives in the country, she scorns shops and stores—they are good for providing raw materials only. The rest she accomplishes by her own skill and ingenuity. She can bake, roast, fry, and pickle—but she can do more than that.

She is an expert at curing hams, smoking sausages, brewing beer, and making brandy out of plums and cherries. Her rank in life makes no difference to her knowledge of the most intricate housekeeping problems; she may be a countess in her own right, but she knows all about the breeding and feeding of pigs, and the pruning of trees in her orchard.

Warsaw hams are famous for their exquisite flavour. They are called “leg” hams, and Polish women excel in baking them in a thick crust of rye bread. In some parts of Poland, where bears are abundant, bear hams are cured, and their meat is delicious. As to sausages, the best is probably the Cracow [sic] kind, very spicy and savoury, somewhat resembling the salami of Milan. Polish women make sausages also of liver—both calves’ and gooses’—and they usually spice them with small, chopped onions, garlic, and red pepper.

A Polish housewife possesses a thousand and one recipes for pastry and cakes. She makes an excellent shortbread, but her way of preparing it might seem rather extravagant in other countries, for the Polish woman will use nothing but the richest cream and the purest butter. The favourite national cake is called “Mazurek.” There are different kinds, but the nicest is made with marzipan and walnuts. You can buy “Mazurek” in shops, but the best is invariably homemade.

It is to her orchard that the Polish woman turns for the replenishing of her cellar supplies. Her plum brandy (“slivowitz”[sic]) is excellent, but her cider is rather “heady,” to put it very mildly. She plants and tends her herbs with an eye to their medicinal properties, and she has handy remedies for most illnesses.

She is thrifty and economical. Nothing is wasted in her house. When a ham is “finished to the knuckle,” she makes soup of it, adding peas and onions and carrots. The very rye crust in which a ham is baked is used as bran for the cattle and poultry.