The name Poland, meaning people living in fields, tells of primitive origins, but don't let that fool you. Poland is home to 17 Nobel prize winners and the famous astronomer Copernicus, who started a scientific revolution by arguing that the earth was not the center of the universe. Poland has been invaded 43 times from 1600 until 1945. The most prominent and devastating of these invasions was September 1st 1939, when the Germans invaded marking the opening of the European theatre of WWII. Today, roughly 35% of the 60 million Poles live outside of Poland and there are significant populations of Poles in the United States. Polish influence can be seen (read: tasted) through its influence on "Texas" smoked sausage, which is heavily influenced from the early Czech, Polish and German settlers in Texas.
Waste not Want not
Every culture has modern delicacies which were born out of times of need. These are usually creative rendering of things that are not so common to more moderner and privileged eaters. With "old" cultures, the contrast of high cuisine created out of poverty is no where more evident than central and eastern Europe (Usually considered eastern Europe, Poland is actually dead center).
Take smalec for example. This bread spread is made from rendered pork fat and seasoned with garlic and onion. Don't turn your nose up at the lard, try it and imagine what a treat such flavor must have been at a time when your homeland was invaded and food was scarce. As we have eaten our way through dozens of countries, our own privilege becomes evident as there are many parts of animals that most people don't even consider trying to use but are just cut off and thrown away prior to market.
Poles are famous for their sausage, pierogi, and golabski. All of these dishes are made with relatively cheap and "repurposed" wrappers and filled with minced meats which can be used from many otherwise inedible parts of animals. Polish sausage traditionally uses washed pork intestine to create the skin of the sausage. Golabski is minced meat stuffed cabbage leaves. Cabbage is a hearty winter crop that keeps well and will fill you up when many other vegetables are not in season. Pierogis are also meat filled (though they also come stuffed with cheese, sauerkraut, or spinach) and the wrapper is made from dough. Don't think for a moment that these foods are lacking in flavor; they are delicious! These food are famous for a reason. If you are looking for something of a more opulent origin, try their pork cutlet or fried bacon.
With vast tracts of agricultural land, Polish food is hearty and very strong in meats and grains from the early midieval days. These flavors have been enhanced and modified over the years through outside cultural influences. After all, Poland borders seven countries by land and another two countries immediately by sea. If you have never ventured out into Polish food, you should add it to your list.
Polonia is a family run restaurant and import store. Polonia started as just the store front in 2003. It provides a number of canned imports as well as a fresh supply of smoked sausage, blood sausage, bacon, and other meat delights. They later expanded to a full restaurant where you can get traditional Polish food. If you are by yourself or as a couple and unsure of what to try, the sample platter is a great place to start. You won't be disappointed or leave hungry. Polonia is a participant in Houston's Polish festival.
Check out the other delectables you can find at Polonia below!