Sunday, December 23, 2012

Cuke-Miserations . . . A Not So Mizerable Salad

Oftentimes, what inspires me to make a recipe are the ingredients that I have on hand and that need to be used up so they do not spoil (I absolutely abhor wasting food).  This time the ingredients in question were 2 cute little Persian cucumbers (that were not on my grocery shopping list, but that made it in my shopping cart all the same. Yes, cukes can be an impulse buy). Naturally, when I saw the cucumbers lingering in my fridge, I thought, “I must make mizeria!”

Mizeria is a type of Polish cucumber salad that is usually made with sour cream. (Hang on tight, for my creamy plant-based version of the salad in a future posting.) However, it can also be made as a non-creamy salad ala Kuchnia Polska recipe #543 Mizeria z ogórków z octem (Cucumber salad with vinegar). I’m finding that sometimes, it is not that hard to veganize Polish recipes, as some of them are already plant-based enough.  Such are the wonders one discovers when delving into the world of Kuchnia Polska and Polish plant-based cookery.

Mizeria z octem

Before we start making salad together, let’s cuke-miserate a bit.  Shall we?  I think that, mizeria-- a word denoting and connoting misery, poverty, shabbiness, and meagerness in the Polish language-- is kind of a funny word for a cucumber salad. So, it made me wonder why Poles have named such a yummy salad with such derision.  So, logically, I hit the internet (and a couple of Polish-English dictionaries) to do a little research on the topic (and by “a little”, that is exactly what I mean). 

Apparently, other inquisitive minds have wondered about the etymology of mizeria, as well. Explanations abound and range from the ever-popular legend about good ol’ homesick and miserable Queen Bona Sforza shedding tears into her beloved cuke salad reminiscing about Italy while residing in Poland (Girl, I’ve been there!), to an interpretation that cucumber salad was not thought of as a very filling or satisfying meal (at least not compared to meals that typically consisted of hearty potatoes, cabbage, and meat dishes that fueled the Slavs for centuries prior to French or Italian culinary influences on Polish cookery).  You know, just some meager ("mizerne") cucumbers in sour cream and vinegar with some onion slices and seasonings. There is even a Wikipedia page (albeit a very short one) on the term mizeria, which seems to suggest that it’s possible that the salad gained its namesake from sweet cream Spanish origins.

Long story short, I was unable to find a truly definitive explanation of how mizeria gained its name and fame, but I enjoyed researching it (a little bit) all the same.  I think it’d be fun to come up with our own explanations for how mizeria got its name? While you think about your explanation (don't forget to share it with me in the comments section), let me share with you how to make this not so miserable salad.

A Not So Mizerable Polish Cucumber Salad
(Makes enough salad for about 2-4 servings based on serving size and hunger level.)

  • 2 small Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced
  • ½ red onion, thinly sliced* (add more, if you like)
  • 2 Tsp Erythritol** (or, to taste)
  • ½ Tsp salt (I used Himalayan pink salt) (or, to taste)
  • 2 Tbsp fresh dill, minced (or, to your liking)
  • 1-3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar (or, to taste) –The Kuchnia Polska recipe calls for just a sprinkling of regular distilled vinegar, but I love the stuff so I use more-- and I used the apple cider vinegar instead.***


Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, mix it up, and chill for at least 30 minutes to allow juices to be released and flavors to merge. The salad should have a sweet and sour taste to it. 

* Here is why, if I can, I always use red onions in my recipes.
** You can use any sweetener you like. Here and here is why I choose to use Erythritol.
*** And, here is why vinegar is good for us.



  1. My mother made Mizeria all throughout the summer--still does. But she didn't have a name for it.

    Coming from Milwaukee, it's hard to know if she made this salad from the Polish influences in that city or if there is a similar Czech version, which is her background.

  2. Polish, Czech, Hungarian, it's all the same really... delicious!! :)