My first memory of ‘cooking’ was when I was four years old. It was jablko z serkiem (apple with cheese) — even if the food wasn’t Polish, I remember the names of things in Polish. I’d put a thin slice of havarti, or whatever cheese was lying around, on a thin slice of tart green apple. I’d pretend it was an hors d’oeuvre while watching Sesame Street.
Growing up, my mother’s bigos was the most comforting thing. It’s a Polish hunter’s stew with sauerkraut, braised cabbage, plums, red wine and leftover meats like ends of sausages, bison meat or pork, as well as three or four types of kielbasa [Polish sausage]. We’d eat it with fresh rye bread and cold butter. There would also be tons of marjoram, and the scent of that takes me back. Borscht is also incredibly nostalgic for me. The Polish version is like a consommé — a very clear broth. Stash Café in Montreal makes it just the way I like it. I was a waiter there, and so were my dad and sisters. It’s a rite of passage if you’re Polish in Montreal.
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