Mysterious Origins of Names of Polish Dishes and Drinks

December has been pretty culinary so far here on Lexiophiles due to our Recipe Advent Calendar and it somehow made me think of names of dishes and drinks in Polish that have distant country or region in their names but nothing or hardly anything in common with said country.

I think the first name occurred to me when I drank my usual afternoon tea with milk. This drink is very popular in England (the English often start their day with a milky tea instead of coffee) but in Polish its name suggests a Bavarian origin. It is called bawarka, which translates into English as a female inhabitant of the German area of Bavaria (it’s capitalized here, but that’s the only difference). I tried to find the reasons behind this name because, as far as I know, milky tea is not a particularly popular drink in Bavaria. Unfortunately, my questions remain unanswered, but I accidentally found out that bawarka can also be the colloquial name for a BMW in Polish –  a Beemer. And there is one more important issue here – the English always pour strong, aromatic tea into a cup with milk in it whereas in Poland we normally pour milk into tea, which is by some considered to kill the aroma of the tea. I like it both ways and never notice any particular difference.

My favourite Polish dish is dumplings with potato and cottage cheese stuffing, simply yummy! In Polish they are called pierogi ruskieRussian-style dumplings and maybe the recipe originally came from Russia or at least from the east but my Russian colleague once told me that in Russia they call these kinds of dumpling ‘Polish dumplings’,  so it’s a vicious circle 🙂 .

Then there is baked bean and meat stew called fasolka po bretońsku in Poland which would be Breton beans in English. I have been to Brittany once, however I am still no expert of Breton cuisine – but as far as I gathered they don’t eat these kind of beans in that particular way there. How do names like that come to exist? Why Brittany – of all the countries and regions in the world?! It remains a mystery to me.  If anyone has any idea, please share you knowledge with us in the comments section!

Last but not least, Christmas is coming up (hence the Advent Calendar) and the two remaining dishes I wanted to mention are eaten on Christmas Eve in some regions of Poland. They’re both fish dishes which may explain their popularity because on Christmas Eve we traditionally don’t eat meat in Poland. But the fact that a dish called karp po żydowskucarp Jewish style (carp in aspic with raisins ) has become a dish eaten mostly at the time of the most celebrated Christian holiday is a bit of a paradox. The other dish is ryba po greckufish Greek style.  This is a similar case, but whereas the Jewish recipe probably really originates from the Jewish tradition and was only modified by the Poles, the Greek style fish apparently has nothing to do with Greek cuisine 🙂 .

If you are now hungry or interested in Polish food, check out this test on basic Polish food vocabulary.


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2 thoughts on “Mysterious Origins of Names of Polish Dishes and Drinks”

  1. Pingback: Mysterious Origins of Names of Polish Dishes and Drinks – Lexiophiles | Arabic names

  2. i actually think that ryba po grecku does have a real greek origin. in past centuries there has been a strong network of greek trade connecting ottoman ruled balkan with transylvania and finally with what used to be eastern poland (and is now largely part of the ukraine). there have been greek trading communities in many polish towns, even up to the west (like poznan).
    the ancestor of ryba po grecku is probably fish plaki.
    versions of this once traveled to transylvania and wallachia and are today called “plachie de pesce” in todays romania and are a very popular dish there.
    i assume that from there it traveled further north to poland.

    one can cite many attested examples of these kind of “food travels” in polish cuisine. golabki are most probably of ottoman-turkish origin, for example. in romania and moldavia they even still have a turkish name, sarmale (from turkish “sarma” – “rolled” “wrapped”).
    don´t forget how big the polish-lithuanian republic once was for centuries, how many cultures and peoples (catholic, protestant, orthodox, jewish, muslim) it once ruled and with how many more it interacted historically. and the “sarmatian” aristocracy of baroque poland loved exotic eastern food – tatar, ottoman, greek, armenian, name it, they loved it.

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