It is the way of life to always take you by surprise. For many years I felt like I was writing “Polska” only for myself. Then finally it all happened at once – the dreamt-of book deal… and the pregnancy. Two babies had decided to come into my life at once. Progress was slow. It was extremely important to me that this book should be written with care and love. It contains everything in my life that has meaning to me, expressed though the language of food. I would not let the persistent waves of nausea sabotage my dream. For a few months I gave up doing other things, as I waited it out, catching those rare moments of feeling well enough to write. My heroic mum saved the day with her motivation and drive, which in turn inspired me to keep going. Soon enough the nausea passed – I’d won. It’s true that the most difficult things in life also tend to be the most rewarding.
I decided to write “Polska” because I felt that the whole time I’d lived in England (that’s 28 years in total now) my country’s cuisine had been misunderstood. I often came across the view that Polish food was “just meat and potatoes”, whereas the food I was brought up on was varied, seasonal, interesting. There was a huge misalignment there and once I got the metaphorical bee in my bonnet, I could not ignore it.
This book is a journey through Poland: it’s culture; the different regions; it’s difficult history; a rich folklore; as well as, more personally, my own childhood in the times of Communism. The recipes are a mixture of old family treasures that we have always eaten at home, other family’s recipes that I have been introduced to and fallen in love with and Polish classics reinvented with a modern, European twist. The idea was to bring Polish food and culture to a wider audience in a way that was beautiful and contemporary. Polish culture as I see it is rich and romantic and often contradictory, so this had to come through in the voice of the book. There was a statement at the forefront of my mind when writing Polska:
“It is very important to preserve traditions and culture. The idea is not to… make sweeping changes but to be careful to do things differently”
(Rei Kawakubo, the founder of Comme de Garcons)
This was my manifesto. Of course, you could not write a book about Polish food without including the recipes of our grandmothers, yet this book wants to be something more, a love letter to the country I left behind perhaps…