The East Village afternoon melts away as André continues to reminisce about the food of his childhood. There were those uszka, tiny mushroom-filled dumplings poached in a clear, claret-red beet broth; that pork loin baked with plums; the whole roast duck stuffed with apples; the rolada—tender roulades of beef, wrapped around crisp bacon and slices of sour pickles in a delicate beef gravy, served over fluffy kasha.
This was the cooking of Lwów, which his parents transplanted to their new home along with the rest of their culture. The food sounds far lighter and more delicate than the heavy American Polish food I know, I tell André. But he reminds me that this is not peasant food. Poland has a rich history of lavish monarchies and court feasts resplendent with traditional dishes made from the bounty of the land: game, wild mushrooms and herbs, berries, butter, and cheese. It was a sophisticated cuisine, as well. Poland was at the heart of medieval spice routes between Northern and Eastern Europe, and even early Polish cooks used pepper, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg.
He is going home in a month for an exhibit of his photographs, André tells me. I ask if I can come along, to meet his family, and to learn more about Poland through the food his family cooks.