Sunday, December 9, 2012

Cook these wonderful dishes remembering us...

Welcome to Jolka Polka's Kitchen!  I'm very excited to be finally embarking on and sharing this little project/hobby of mine (an idea that came to me one memorable autumn day not so long ago -- November 10, 2012, to be exact) with you my dear and hopefully hungry reader.

You're probably wondering:  What is plant-based Polish cookery?  Is it even possible to create plant-based Polish culinary delights without the seemingly ever present Polish staples of pork, sausage, and dairy? More importantly, will it taste good?  (Gawd, please let it taste good!) Finally, you may even be asking yourself, "Why on Earth is it even worth embarking on such a project?"

A little context and back story may be in order. I am a cycling vegetarian, of sorts.  Yes, I ride a bike with many a colorful vegetable, fruit, grain, and legume bounty in my basket, but that is not what I mean. What I mean is that I repeatedly dabble with plant-based eating every several years or so. Sure, I lapse every once in a while (okay, a lot), but I return to plant-based eating with remarkable regularity. And, that is what matters, my dear friend, because that is what brings me (and you) here.

Long story short (I knew a woman years ago who had a gift of the gab, she used this expression often; I'm pretty sure that she did not know what it meant because her stories were never short. But, I digress...), over a year ago after many years of being a lapsed plant-based eater, I felt compelled once again to eat healthier, more nutritiously, and more responsibly for myself and for the planet. So, I started eating "vegetarian before dinner" an adaptation of Mark Bittman's Vegan Before 6. At the same time, I started researching and reading up on plant-based eating, and slowly but surely, my own eating habits also morphed into being a "vegan before 6".  Absolutely pivotal in my plant-based conversion were: Dr. Joel Furhman's, Eat for Health; Dr. Michael Greger's fantastically informative and research-based web-site,; the book and the documentary of the same name, Forks Over Knives; Dr. Neil Barnard's many books and web-site, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine; and Dr. Dean Ornish's historic book, Dr. Dean Ornish's Program for Reversing Heart Disease.  So, long story short (tee hee hee), my current gastronomic lifestyle has evolved into cooking and preparing only plant-based foods (mostly low fat) at home. However, I do allow myself more flexibility when I venture out into the world of culinary pleasures and temptations that are ever present in the Bay Area. Hey, I'm human, and I like good food!

These days, as I suspect it is for many of us, my menu is diverse with foods and spices from all over the world. However, given that I am of hearty Slavic heritage, specifically 100% Polish, and that I grew up eating delicious Polish food, I often hanker for a Polish meal that reminds me of my origins but that is not laden with meats, fats, and dairy.  So, you see, I was presented with both a conundrum and an opportunity. Enter Project Veganize Kuchnia Polska a.k.a. this here very food blog, Jolka Polka's Kitchen: Plant-Based Polish Cookery Made with Love.

Again, a little context and back story is in order. In 1979, my aunt and uncle presented our family with a copy of Maria Librowska's 1979 edition of Kuchnia Polska, a seminal and classic Polish cookbook, if not the Polish cookbook of an era, as a going away gift.  
My copy of Kuchnia Polska.
You see, my family's life would change forever, as we were emigrating for the United States of America. We were lucky to have emigrated from Poland before martial law would take hold two years later, but that is a story for another blog. Now, back to the book and to the food.  

Somehow over the years, I have come to hold our family's copy of Kuchnia Polska. The first sentence of the book reads:  "Wzrost i rozwój człowieka, fizyczna i tak zwane samopoczucie wynikają w dużej mierze ze sposobu odżywiania się" (Translation: "The growth and development of humans, both our physical growth and our so-called well-being, largely stem from diet.")  Our copy of the book was lovingly inscribed by my aunt and uncle,"-- aby gotując te wspaniałe potrawy wspomnieli o nas" (Translation: "Cook these wonderful dishes remembering us.") 

"Wzrost i rozwój człowieka ..."
"Cook these wonderful dishes remembering us."
I don't know about you, but I think those there are some deep and powerful words! Because that is exactly what food does, isn't it? It does more than sustain us physically, it also bonds us to our past, our heritage, and our memories. Food creates us. When we eat, we nurture our bodies, our minds, and our souls. 

So, it is with love and very fond memories that I will attempt to veganize and nutrify traditional Polish dishes into healthier plant-based versions that can be enjoyed by not only me, but also you (should you choose to make them).  I can't say that I will always be successful, but I am willing to experiment and try one recipe at a time.



  1. Jola,

    This is very exciting and cant wait to
    Start practicing these recipes! Im working on cleaning up my diet and always searching for flavorful and new options!

    1. Oh, I am very happy to hear that.:) My first Polish veganized recipe will be posted soon. So, do stay tuned!

  2. I am very excited about your blog, J. As a boy from Milwaukee (German, not Polish), the culinary influences and trends are very similar. And as a vegetarian, I rarely partake of the foods of my childhood, other than the sweets. I'm anxious to see what you come up with!

    1. Hello Stephen!

      I'm very excited, too! I think this should be a fun and tasty (well, at least most of the time, I hope) hobby.

      German food, especially East German food, is SO similar to Polish food that the differences are minimal. We just happen to have eaten at a local East German restaurant this weekend (we'll have to go together next time you are in town), and I felt like I was transported back in time. It was also neat to see that they had vegetarian (not vegan) options.

      Are there any foods in particular that you hanker for in their plant-based incarnation?

      Big hugs!

    2. So most of the dishes I remember from childhood were oriented around meats and sausages. I like sauerkraut quite a bit--my family always cooked meat or sausage in the sauerkraut, which made both the meat and kraut taste amazing. I do like cabbage, but mostly the uncooked variety. I like dill on my veggies (don't tell Frank--every time I bring out the dill he rolls his eyes and complains about how much dill he had to eat in Poland).

      My dad's family was German and my mother's was Czech. I imagine Czech cookery is a bit like Polish, no? There were several dishes from mom's family I liked--there was something we called botch (sp?). It was kind of like a potato pancake. And there was a fantastic stew she made, but I can't remember the name--basically root vegetables, some meat, and a brown gravy/base.

      I remember there was lots of unique breads too--not just pastries, but regular bread--a lot with poppy seeds.

      Not sure any of this is helpful or interesting to you--but it will be fun to talk about it with my mom over the holidays. Thanks for making me think about and remember all of this.

    3. I LOVE sauerkraut, you can be sure that I will be including recipes for it as well as recipes utilizing it. I also love dill (and the other fresh herb Poles love to use--parsley). I just love the way dill and/or parsley can brighten up the flavors in a salad, soup, or potatoes. Love it!

      I'm not as familiar with Czech food as I am with German food, but when I have had it, I loved it (and, yes, I thought it tasted very similar to Polish food).

      Yes, this is all very helpful and interesting to read. I especially love that it is bringing up memories for you. Food is pretty amazing that way.. :)

    4. Re-reading that post, it sounds like I am in a very lovey dovey sort of mood.

  3. What a wonderful idea for a blog! I have a very similar history to yours, having immigrated with my parents from Poland in 1980 at the age of five. I now live in Oakland, CA. (I work with Miesha, who let me know about your awesome blog) I'm mostly vegetarian, though I eat seafood sometimes, and would love to cook more Polish food! A plant-based approach to Polish cooking sounds super exciting!

    Serdecznie Dziękuję,

  4. Agnieszka,

    I'm delighted to read about your enthusiasm for this blog (Thank you, Miesha, for sharing it)! Our immigration stories and eating habits sound very similar, indeed. Hopefully, I can whip up some plant-based Polish recipes that will stimulate your taste buds and memories.