A Typical Daily Menu in Poland
small, A Typical Daily Menu in Poland, Bigos, photo: Robert Haidinger / Anzenberger Agency / Forum, bigos_forum.jpg
Polish eating habits are surprising in many respects. In contrast with much of the English-speaking world, a traditional daily menu in Poland comprises five meals, not three.
Furthermore, these meals feature a variety of unfamiliar food staples, and even if one encounters all sorts of trendy diets in Poland, there is still a solid core of traditionalists. Let Culture.pl take you through one day in Polish food...
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8:30 – ‘Śniadanie’ (breakfast)
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Open sandwiches with ham and tomato, photo: Tomasz Sternicki / Forum
Poles often start the day with meat or eggs. They commonly have what they call ‘a sandwich’, meaning a slice of bread topped with cold cuts or kiełbasa, or scrambled eggs. There can also be a side of dairy – either kefir, or quark cheese mixed with radishes. Sometimes marinated herrings will make an appearance. As a rule, Poles are not afraid of strong tastes and quite comfortably begin the day with garlicky, vinegary or fermented foods.
Coffee is just as crucial an element of the morning routine as anywhere else, but the coffee-drinking tradition was interrupted by shortages during the communist regime. As a result, some people still drink grain-based coffee substitutes or strong tea.
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11:00 – ‘Drugie śniadanie’ (2nd breakfast)
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Trześniewski's open sandwiches – a Polish speciality that took Vienna by storm, photo: CC / Flickr.com
Yes, you read that right: in Poland, one is allowed a second breakfast ‒ every day, not just on weekends, like a measly brunch. The catch is that it usually consists of another slice of bread with kiełbasa. This is a meal often eaten on the go, so it needs to be easy to carry: boiled eggs, or little dry sausages called kabanosy and of course sandwiches. While the latter can sound unexciting, the outstanding quality of Polish charcuterie and pickles make them more appealing. Moreover, while Poland is no paradise for cheese-lovers, there is one variety of smoked sheep cheese called oscypek that truly livens up any sandwich.
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14:00 – ‘Obiad’ (dinner)
The mid-day meal is traditionally the largest of the day in Poland. During the week, hard-working Poles have to be satisfied with a plate of pierogis from the local cafeteria, or else risk the wrath of their bosses and escape for an hour and half to go to a proper restaurant. Speaking of restaurants, most will offer some sort of lunch special: a soup and a main course, sometimes with a dessert, at an affordable price. Fare at this meal is essentially Mittel-European with cabbage slaw, cabbage rolls, or some sort of stuffed dumplings. Common sides also include buckwheat groats and a creamy cucumber salad called mizeria, or ‘misery’. At state-sponsored canteens (the so-called milk bars) dinner is sometimes served with kompot, a sugary drink made of boiled fruit.
17:00 – ‘Podwieczorek’ (evening snack)
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This is more of a designated snack time than a meal. It’s also cake and pastry time! Cheesecake is an all-time Polish favourite, provided it’s served Kraków-style, with sugar icing and raisins. Another classic, szarlotka, is sometimes translated as apple pie but is really more of a spiced apple cake with a crumbly topping.
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20:00 ‒ ‘Kolacja’ (supper)
Supper is a subdued affair in Poland. Some will just grab whatever’s lying around on the kitchen counter. This means more sandwiches (?!) or leftovers. For a full list of the staples of Polish cuisine, read our Foreigner’s Guide to Polish Cuisine, or learn more about these classic dishes.
What's a typical daily menu like in your country? If you're Polish, do you agree with our menu?
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Based on articles written for Culture.pl by Marek Kępa and Magdalena Kasprzyk-Chevriaux, edited by LB