Hanna Szymanderska was a popular journalist and food writer, and a prominent expert on Polish cuisine. She was born in 1944 in Ryki, and died on 11th September, 2014, in Skarżysko-Kamienna.
Popular journalist and food writer, prominent expert on Polish cuisine
Hanna Szymanderska wrote dozens of widely read culinary books, including Encyclopedia of Polish Culinary Art, The Polish Table, The Polish Christmas Eve, The Polish Easter, 200 Vegetable Dishes, Polish Hunters’ Cuisine, 100 Herring Dishes, Cooking Secret, or What They Eat in Sopliców, Gourmet Warsaw: Diet Old and New, Polish Christmas Traditions, Polish Cuisine: Regional Dishes. Some of them have been translated into English.
Szymanderska’s books, which have sold several million copies, are not just a collection of recipes, but most of all stories, ethnographic curiosities, and forgotten accounts linked to Polish cuisine, tradition and food culture. This popular author was a walking encyclopedia and a treasury of anecdotes, as well as an energetic and witty person. She spent a lot of time in Polish and foreign libraries in search of inspirational stories and recipes, leafing through diary records, old books and court inventories, forgotten or obscure sources.
Poland’s top chef – as she was described – became interested in cooking after her wedding in the 1960s. It was the empty shelves in the shops that ‘forced’ her to carry out culinary experiments. As a result, her first book entitled 200 Vegetable Dishes was written in 1974. However, it was not published until five years later due to censorship – after numerous corrections and removal of, for example, scarce products such as ham. The author’s experience with censorship discouraged her from writing for some time. Nevertheless, life during the martial law period compelled her to go on with her publications. In the early eighties Szymanderska lost her job and she had to earn her living as a food columnist on request.
In recent years, her work and activities have been widely appreciated. In 2003 she was awarded the Grand Prize of the Minister of Agriculture for her Encyclopedia of Polish Culinary Art; in 2006 Polish Cuisine: Regional Dishes received the award of the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Agriculture; and in 2007 the book Dishes with an Anecdote was awarded the prestigious 'Culinary Oscar'.
Szymanderska disliked popular cooking shows. Instead of showing off on television, she preferred to meet with housewives from the Rural Housewives Club, whom she considered to be the best cooks and guardians of tradition.
The author died tragically in September 2014 in a car accident on her way back from a culinary festival.
Author: Magdalena Kasprzyk-Chevriaux, transl. Bozhana Nikolova, April 2015