Yet again, I’m reaching out to Polish cuisine. Funny, how a diet of an average Polish person depends on potatoes. And even funnier, we mostly eat them in one form…boiled and mashed. There is no obiad without mash potatoes.
And there is a terminology confusion here. In England, I’d have three meals a day: breakfast (sometime in the morning), lunch (between 12 and 4pm) and dinner (sometime in the evening). In Poland though, we have śniadanie (breakfast, in the morning), obiad (lunch) and kolacja (evening time). It’ll all be good in the hood, if it wasn’t for a very common mistake. Many, if not most of the English teachers in Poland, teach kids (or at least they used to, when I was still at school), that obiad translates as dinner, causing at the same time a tremendous confusion and lost in translation effect.
Shame nobody told me that at school, when I was learning English. So many times I was referring to my Polish obiad but translating it as dinner, rather than lunch. So the person I was speaking to, thought I was referring to a late evening meal, rather than lunchtime meal. It’s stuck so deep in my head, that even now, after few years abroad, sometimes I have to bite my tongue when translating the Polish word obiad.
Even Google Translate seems to be confused. When I typed obiad in the translation box, it translated it into English as dinner, although with a second translation offered (midday meal). Why is it so difficult to understand and digest that Polish people have their own word for the English word lunch? I’m sure other languages have it, too. Funnily enough, if I swap the languages around and try to translate a word lunch from English to Polish, it translates as…lunch. I checked the Polish Language Dictionary and apparently the word lunch is allowed to be used in Polish language because of its presence and common use in our language for years. The author of the Polish Dictionary also warns potential readers from replacing English word lunch with Polish word obiad, because apparently their meanings are different? How so?
When I try to compare Polish and English eating habits, there is only one difference when it comes to meal terminology: Polish dinner (or I should rather say supper) is much smaller than its English equivalent. But on the other hand, Polish obiad tends to be much bigger than English lunch.
Let’s get this straight: what would be a possible, exemplary daily menu for each of the countries, assuming that the meals are home cooked?
śniadanie: open sandwich with butter, ham and tomato or scrambled eggs with a piece of bread with butter
obiad: soup, mash potatoes, salad and breaded and fried chicken breast
kolacja: open sandwiches again
breakfast: well, we do have full English but I think most people would normally have porridge or bowl of cereal at home.
lunch: sandwich or lunchbox bought form a shop
dinner: roast meat with vegetables and mash or sausages with mash (famous bangers and mash, oh, are they nice!)
Of course, not everyone would eat meal like that everyday. But, as you can see, Polish obiad is as big as English dinner. But what do Polish people eat at work, during the day? What is Polish lunch? Well, we do have a word for it and it’s…drugie śniadanie (second breakfast). It’s usually a sandwich, made at home and wrapped in paper or foil. My Mum used to make me a sandwich to school everyday.
And there is one more thing. English word for dinner means also a meal in a restaurant. “I’m having dinner with him tonight’, one would say. See, in Poland if you go out with someone for dinner it’s not obiad, it’s kolacja. Yeah, I think I can hear your brain trying to process all this. There is an English word for our kolacja, it’s supper. But to be honest, I don’t think I have ever heard anyone saying it. Usually, last meal before bedtime is referred to as dinner. As far as I’m concerned, at least.
There is a meal called in Polish podwieczorek, too. Not many people use this word anymore, apart from preschools, where podwieczorek usually is the last meal before kids go home. Podwieczorek is supposed to be a ligh meal, around 3 or 4 o’clock, like a pastry or piece of cake or hot custard with raspberry syrup. I used to love podwieczorek when I was at preschool. Nice, lazy meal in the afternoon.
I suppose the English have their five o’clock, tea time. And believe me, tea is hardly ever drunk without a sweet treat, be it biscuits or scones, without it tea is not a tea. If you’ll ever find yourself in England, don’t forget to have yourself a cream tea. Beautiful British treat, consisting of tea with milk and sugar and a scone with clotted cream and jam. So good.
So have we come to a conclusion yet? Well, as complicated as the problem is, I think that we can safely say that at the moment, the meaning of the Polish word obiad is drifting towards English word dinner, and a word drugie sniadanie is being replaced with an English word lunch. What can I say? We do live in a global village, where all the cultural habits and customs are being mixed up together and the cultures are becoming more and more similar. Scary, isn’t it?
If you do find yourself in a situation when you are talking to a Polish person about meals you’ve had, I would suggest using Polish terminology rather than trying to translate. Only breakfast has the same meaning everywhere: a morning meal. The cultural luggage a word obiad carries makes it impossible to translate it either to lunch or dinner. Many people in Poland are having obiad at 1pm, so how can I possibly call it dinner then? It must be lunch. Especially that Polish people would still have kolacja (supper), after obiad, no matter what time obiad was.
One last time, let’s put it together. Polish and English meal terminology.
In Poland, traditionally, one would have 5 meals a day:
śniadanie (first meal, in the morning)
drugie śniadanie (equivalent of English lunch, eaten at work or at school)
obiad (eatne after work, around 4pm)
podwieczorek (light afternoon meal, usually something sweet)
kolacja (supper, evening meal)
In Englad, traditionally, it’s also 5 meals:
breakfast (morning meal)
lunch (eaten at work or school, between 12 and 2pm)
famous five o’clock, afternoon tea (tea with a treat, scones, pastries or small sandwiches, served mid-afteroon)
dinner (eaten after work, between 6-9pm)
supper (light evening meal)
But we need to be aware of the fact that the times are changing, too. My childhood experiences are probably much different than experiences of those 10 years younger than me. People work more now, come home later, often there isn’t even time left to cook. My Mum was quite often surprised with the fact how late I sometimes eat. But When I used to work shifts, coming home at like 23, what to do? Now my boyfriend finishes work at 17 everyday, which means we usually end up having dinner around 7pm. It’s is still quite unimaginable in Poland, especially in the countryside, to have a two-course dinner so late in the evening. Each culture has its quirks and habits.
Sadly, big chunks of cultural reality, most natural and obvious for me, as a child and now, as an adult, are fading away, being forgotten. I wonder, is it really possible that cultures will deny their national identity in a blind marathon for prosperity? That is a scary vision of a scary world, I definitely don’t want to live in. What makes the world so interesting and worth exploring is its cultural diversity.
Leaving behind my cultural divagations, let’s move on to the recipe I promised someone to be posted yesterday. Sorry for the delay, I hope you will still find it useful ^^
Potato fritters with vegetable sauce (Placki ziemniaczane z sosem warzywnym)
for the fritters
500g potatoes, peeled and grated
1tbsp wheat flour
1 onion, chopped
chopped dill (optional)
oil for frying
for the sauce
1 red pepper
2 garlic cloves
1 tin of plum tomatoes or fresh ripe tomatoes
HOW TO MAKE?
1. Start with making the vegetable sauce. Just for the record, you can serve potato fritters with any sauce you like, it can me with meat (and it normally is, to be honest). My sauce is just a suggestion. Heat a big pan or saucepan, with some olive oil. Add chopped onion and garlic, add some thyme. After few minutes, add chopped pepper and courgette, cook for 2-3 minutes. Add grated carrot and grated parsnip. Cook until the vegetables will soften.
2. When the vegetables are quite soft, add the tomatoes. Cook for about 5 minutes. Taste the sauce and season to your taste. If the colour of the sauce is too faint, you can add some tomato concentrate. It’ll make the colour more red and the flavour a bit deeper.
3. Cook the sauce for another 10-15 minutes, letting all the flavour mix together nicely. Set aside when ready.
4. Start preparing the potato fritters. First, peel the potatoes. After washing them, time for grating. Traditionally in Poland the potatoes should be grated to become a mash-like pulp. However, I prefer them grated into a bit bigger pieces, so they are nice and crunchy when fried. But it’s completely up to you.
5. Place grated potatoes in a big bowl. Add flour, egg, salt, pepper, chopped onion and dill (if using). Mix everything thoroughly. You should get a batter of a fairly thick consistency. If it’s too runny, add some more flour.
6. Heat up oil in a frying pan. When hot, using a tablespoon, place portions of batter in the pan. You can flatten each portion lightly with a spoon. fry until golden and then flip to the other side.
7. When fried (nicely golden), remove them from pan to a previously prepared plate lined with some kitchen towel. Kitchen towel will absorb excess oil from the fritters. Repeat the process until you run out of batter.
8. Serve potato fritters with a ladle of sauce. You can sprinkle the sauce with grated cheese or add a spoon of sour cream on top. Enjoy! Some people in Poland like eating potato fritters without the sauce, with some sugar instead. You can try, sounds odd but maybe it’ll suit your taste.