One of the things I like so much about Zuza Zak’s book is the amount of history and lore associated with a book ostensibly about Polish dumplings she calls Pierogi. I’ve been making dumplings professionally for over half a century. Besides the fact this is the first time I’ve heard some of the really fascinating history of Poland – a country that William Woys Weaver once said has a diverse, region focused cuisine as varied as France – some of the recipes included are not what I would have considered a pierogi, or even a dumpling. Zuza explains. Take potatoes. Here is an excerpt about them from her new book.
Her video on how she makes byczki is in the showcase now with the description: “Looking at these buttered byczki (the name means bulls) in a dish, we can assume that they are so named because of their shape: wide and stout, with little horns at the edges. “ With leek and apple slaw. Yes, please.
And this includes sweet potatoes, and gray potatoes. “Whether they’re eaten with plenty of dill as a side dish to pork cutlets, fried until crispy the next day with a glass of kefir, enjoyed in the form of dumplings, or eaten straight from the fire in the last light of the setting sun, potatoes are undeniably
a big part of Polish (and Eastern European) cuisine.
Potatoes have also been a symbol of both hardship and of women’s roles within a poor society. In 2001, artist Julita Wójcik peeled 50kg (110lb) of potatoes at Zachęta Gallery in Warsaw as an exploration of gender roles within Polish society. She made a poignant point, as many of my memories of my babcia Ziuta (who was a cook, both professionally and within the large family) involve her peeling potatoes, and her roughened hands also told that story. However, the symbol of the potato as the quintessential food of the Poles isn’t historically accurate.
Potatoes came to Poland only after Jan III Sobiecki won the Battle of Vienna in 1683. Even then they were viewed with suspicion by the lower class, though they were used decoratively (in the court gardens) by the nobles. It was only in the 17th century, when the Saxon kings’ policies, mismanagement by the gentry and frequent attacks brought poverty to the peasants that the potato finally became an indispensable part of the Polish diet – through necessity rather than enjoyment.
So, if you can make it you should jump on this Sunday, Sept. 25th at 11AM EST. Passcode: ZuzZZ
Pierogi: Over 50 Recipes to Create Perfect Polish Dumpling by Zuza Zak is available now in both digital format and hard cover the in the US on Amazon and anywhere books are sold. Photos in the book are by the amazing Ola O. Smit @olasmit. Register to attend a live event on September 25th, 11AM EST of the month of Dumplings at the Vimeo site: https://tinyurl.com/ybzedfhh , then $10 to PayPal.me/ZuzaZak
$10 gets you the addresses and codes for the demonstrations by Zuza on making dumplings from this lovely, simple and tasty looking book that will have you eager to make dumplings and other things. There is no charge for the live event. No charge for annual members or video makers, but you must register for the live event, though.
An annual membership for $75 gets you access to hundreds and hundreds of videos, as well as live events like the one above with 5 videos and to the December events and access to the library until the end of the year on 12/31/2022.