The Other Poland

May 3, 2010

It’s been some time since I posted here. My computer broke down and my time online was vastly limited. I’m slowly coming back, catching up, and thinking of new stuff.

I don’t know if people know, but I have several WordPress blogs. (Must be something with the cool WordPress themes. Whenever I can’t decide on one I begin another blog!) One of them is brand new, and it’s meant to be about the Old (First) Republic of Poland that existed up to the late 18th century.

While I’m likely to ramble around the eras, I don’t mean for it to be a blog about the 19th and 20th centuries misery, but rather an attempt to show where we, as a nation, are coming from.

There was a very long time when Poles self-governed via democratic measures, and when many of our present attitudes were created. Since our history considerably differs from that in other European countries, often our present attitudes are misconstrued when being seen via the prism of those elsewhere.

I mean to begin with general stuff, like the borders, laws, the political system etc, but, in the end, I hope to focus on the society, which should explain how we see ourselves today. I want to write about women too, and how their lives differed, about our literature and culture, and about the various historical events or the lack of them. Incidentally, I think that Poland’s history is pretty uneventful, but I want to show the reasons behind it.

The blog is partly inspired by new historiography, in Poland and abroad. The way we see history of various nations is a mixture of world histories, political ideologies, and myths. Many myths about Poland are being deconstructed now. For one, because history often serves as a kind of appeasement, justification, and inspiration. Poles needed another kind of history when they fought for their independence, and they need another one now when they’re free again and they need to self-govern rather than complain. Similarly, more and more Jewish scholars turn to the Early Modern period in Poland, because the borders are open and archives are available, and because they too want to have a richer history of their nation than the short story of the Zionist movement (a pretty marginal development when one looks at the whole).  Lithuanians, too, begin to change their mind about the period, with the May 3 Constitution being now officially celebrated in both countries. Tatars, the only ancient Muslim minority in the Christian Europe, publicise their history too.

Revisionism in the domain is not limited to Poland. There are Brits who take a Whiggish or non-Whiggish approach for example, but it’s a new thing for Poland, and in a way more fascinating, because, while in the West only people’s motives are revised, the entire shape of Europe is being changed here, as well as various nations’ role in it.

In other words, what happens nowadays is a very interesting development in the academic approach to Poland’s history, with a broader and more impartial view than what was done before. It’d be a shame to miss it!

Go to Res Publica to read more.

Meat Pierogi Recipe

December 26, 2008

My friend’s visits to Poland have one enduring effect. She misses pierogi! Actually I’m not sure whether she remembers anything else from her visits, because she hardly ever talks of anything else. She wants some every time she hears I’m having them for dinner, she thinks of them every time she longs for some comfort food, and now, that it’s Christmas and pierogi are obviously one of the traditional food Poles have at this season, she asked about them with no little envy.

Alas, she can’t buy pierogi where she lives. She says that the only kind available there are some potato ones, that seem a poor imitation of our ruskie pierogi that are with cheese and potato (sometimes erroneously translated as Russian pierogi, but ruskie means Ruthenian – Ukrainian or Belarusian), while her favourite kind are the meat ones.

ImagePierogi is the plural of pieróg. They originated in Finland, but we have long developed our own recipes. They can be either sweet or non-sweet. Out of the non-sweet three kinds are the most popular: with cheese and potato (the ruskie ones), with meat, or with cabbage and mushrooms.

The only solution for my friend we found is to make her own, so I found a recipe by Maciej Kuroń, one of the famous chiefs in Poland, and with my friend’s help prepared the English translation. Perhaps others might like to cook them too. They’re really easy to make, and one really can eat them all the time.

Meat Pierogi

Filling:

500g (about 1 lb) of boiled bouillon meat (it’s the meat one used to make broth: beef, chicken and veal)
2 onions
30g (about 1 0z) of butter
Salt and pepper

Dough:

500g (17.6 oz) of flour
250ml of water or milk (about 1 cup)
1 tablespoon of butter
Salt
1 egg (optional)

To prepare the filling:

Grind the meat. Dice/mince the onion into very small pieces and fry it in butter until it becomes transparent. Add the salt, pepper and the meat to the onion and sauté briefly to blend the flavours. If the filling is too dry you can add 50g (1.5 – 2 oz) of ham or smoked meat.

To prepare the dough:

The ingredients should be at room temperature before making the dough. Sieve/sift the flour onto a board. Make a small hollow in the middle and add the egg (adding the optional egg will make the dough firmer) and the tablespoon of melted butter into it. Slowly pour in the water or milk. The amount will depend on the humidity of the flour. The dryer the flour the more fluid it will need. Knead the dough, first with a knife, then with your hands (about 15-20 min.) until it becomes a uniform, smooth mass. A well prepared dough should be elastic and smooth, and after being cut through it should have air holes. Cover it with a bowl for half an hour to let it mature, and then split it into 2-3 pieces and roll each to a thickness of 2 mm (0.08 inches).

Cut circles from the dough (use a form or a wide glass), put some filling into the middle of each, fold into half circles and seal them carefully by pinching the edges together with your fingers. Put the pierogi into boiling, salted water. After they float to the surface keep boiling them for 3 more minutes. Take them out with a slotted spoon.

They can be eaten at once, or you can pan fry them, which makes them even better. (My friend agrees with the frying and says, “Yum!”)

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