In New York City, a long line of people can be found in front of a food truck named Old Traditional Polish Cuisine. It serves, as stated in their banner, their specialty of smoking hot kielbasas and a variety of pierogi. It claims to be authentic and traditional. The long queue makes you wonder: “What is about Polish cuisine that makes it irresistible to a lot of people?”
During the Middle Ages in Poland, whatever is served in the dining table depended on the available agricultural produce and crops, mostly cereals, and on what was brought home by hunters, like meats of farm and wild animals, as well as the plants found in the forest like herbs, spices, fruits and berries. There was the ubiquitous groats or “kasza” and an abundance of salt. Beer or mead was the staple drink during that time.
Proso millet was the cereal of choice because it was readily available, but other types of cereal soon became popular too. In fact, a lot of them chose cereals instead of bread.
Poles were also fond of using mushrooms because there was an endless supply of this product in their dense forest.
In the early days, Polish nobility was served the unique meal of honey-braised paws of a bear that comes with a horseradish salad. It is said that they also liked smoked bear tongue and bear bacon.
People from the old times widely used two basic sauces: the jucha szara and jucha czerwona. Their meals were often spicy not only because the spices were abundant, – they were cheap too.
People drank milk, buttermilk, whey and different herb-infused concoctions. The ubiquity of mead prompted Prince Leszek I the White to banter with the Pope that his knights would not take part in the crusade, because they know that there was no mead available in the Holy Land. In the 16th century Poles from the upper classes began importing Silesian and Hungarian wines. Almost around the same time, vodka grew in popularity with the lower classes, and then eventually made its way up the social ladder.