Today’s post is a guest blog by my lovely friend and neighbor Magda Warthen. She is originally from Poland, but has been in the US for so long, I tend to forget that she did not grow up here. She’s a fun one to have a glass of wine with by the pool and we’ve known each other for years. I look forward to her Christmas parties every year and she is one of the warmest, most welcoming hostesses you’ll ever find. Last week, she shared a post on Facebook about Polish holiday food and I enjoyed it so much, I asked her to share her beautiful food memories with you guys:
My Polish Christmas
by Magda Warthen
I have lived most of my life in the United States, and have spent countless Christmases here. However, as much as I love cooking turkey, watching “The Christmas Story,” and seeing kids anxious to open presents first thing in the morning, I’ll never forget that Christmas in Poland.
Christmas Eve was always the time we celebrated, and on that day my memories go back to the country I was born and raised in. All day we’d decorate the tree, freshly delivered and just cut. It was up usually until late January, and even then we were hesitant on pulling it down. My mother and grandmother cooked for hours, making various foods. It took almost the whole month of December to prepare those delicious meals for that special day.
The whole family came over because of the wonderful meals that my grandmother had made from scratch. I don’t think she had a single recipe written down, which seemed to make her food even better. We only ate once the first star was spotted in the night sky (that was mainly the kids’ job.) Once they found it, everyone knew that it was the time you could actually start celebrating. Before we ate, we shared a Christmas Wafer with everyone around the table, wishing them a Merry Christmas.
One important tradition of ours was to put an extra setting at the table, in case someone lost, homeless, or without a family needed something to eat. I still do it at my home, even if there isn’t much room left around the table.
Another big Polish tradition is to have twelve meatless dishes served on Christmas Eve. It was developed through several pagan and religious customs, introduced by the Catholic Church. In our family, this meal always included several different delicious foods, including red borsch with tiny raviolis. We also had carp, which was cooked in several different ways. In communism, we didn’t have an opportunity to transport fresh fish from the sea, so we used local lakes to get the carp. It may not be the best kind of fish, but after my grandmother prepared it, it was as smooth as butter and as delicious as a newly baked pie. The carp was delivered very fresh, always a day before Christmas Eve. While at home, it was alive and in my bath tub…I never wanted to take a bath until at least a week after the event. My friends loved it, but they weren’t the ones who had a smelly bathroom for weeks!
Besides borsch and carp we also had herrings and pierogis filled with different kinds of stuffings. Braised sauerkraut and cabbage rolls. Kutia was a dish no-one knew in my neighborhood. I grew up in the western part of Poland, which use to be Germany before Second World War. My grandmother came from Ukraine. Now Russia, then Poland. She brought the Kutia recipe with her. It was a combination of nuts and honey. Really healthy treat. For dessert we also had to have ginger bread and poppy seed cake served with the dry fruit compote.The feast took hours and the ER was waiting for those who overate. 🙂
Magda still prepares borsch with raviolis and pierogies on Christmas Eve for her family, and then has traditional American fare on Christmas Day. Thanks again to Magda for sharing her delicious food memories with YellowDaisyChickChat! If you have any food memories you’d like to share, please comment below or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be well. Take care of yourselves and each other,