Polska_Days1&2_0295 About Zuza Zak

I call myself a “Storyteller Cook”, because everything I do is to do with cooking and telling stories through the medium of food. I want to inspire the world to cook and eat more Polish food.

I have written a cookbook “Polska” – a love letter to the country where I was born – that has been published in the UK, America, Australia, the Netherlands, Germany and Poland. Since writing this book I have had many opportunities to talk and teach people about Polish food. Now, I have started a supper club – A Slavic Tale – in my local community of Hither Green, south-east London. I want to challenge perspectives about what East European food is, in a fun and and tasty way.

My own story began in a land and time very removed and different from the one I inhabit today. I was born in Communist Poland in 1979 and spent the first 8 years of my life in an oppressive regime that I remember with a strange mixture of fear and nostalgia. There was often nothing to be found in the shops. Sometimes people would queue for 8 hours or more to buy one random ingredient that happened to be available that day, yet somehow the Polish people always found a way to eat and to enjoy themselves. Families, friends and communities would work together to find, grow, forage and obtain everything that was needed to create amazing feasts.

Since arriving in the UK, aged 8, I have found that people here know very little about my country, it’s food and culture. Even now that there are so many Poles living here, the cuisine is relatively unknown or completely misunderstood. When I started writing “Polska” I had a full-time job and would get up at 6.30am to do 45min of writing before work. In this way, bit-by-bit, the book wrote itself. All the interest that my book has generated has been heartwarming. I hope that my story is an inspiration to others to follow their passions.

(Photograph by Laura Edwards)