Monday, June 12, 2006

Polish Food (June 12) (part 1)

I went to a restaurant last night that is supposed to prepare high quality Polish dishes. I ordered barszcz (borscht) and a beef roulade with frytky (fries). The borscht was good. It was warm and the beets gave it a rather sweet taste, but the base was clearly some kind of meat stock, which gave it a rather salty taste. The beef was overcooked, so that the burnt parts were dried out. I had been expecting more of thin steak sort of dish, but its texture was more like sausage or hamburger. It was rather salty and so I finished my soda water very quickly and ordered a fanta. On the plus side, the fries were nice and crispy.

Earlier, in the Stary Rynek (the main square), I got a warm waffle from a stand and had them put whipped cream and cherry sauce on it, so I felt I didn't really need a dessert after that. Instead, I ordered a Wisnioc (I know I'm misspelling it). It's basially a cherry-flavored vodka. I had heard from family members that my grandmother used to make a version of it called vishnitz, and my attempts to duplicate it were usually (charitably) described by friends as tasting like cough syrup. This was good, almost light, though quite strong, when it came to the alcohol content.

This morning I ordered the (al)most vegeterian option for breakfast. From its description, it was the only meatless option, with three types of cheese, rolls, bread, tea, jam and butter, and a tomato and cucumber salad. However, one of the cheese (the soft spreadable triangle-type cheese) was actually salami flavored. Who knew? The slice cheese tasted like Monterey Jack and I did't care for the "cream cheese" (probably hoop or farmer cheese). The tomatoes were pretty good, though.

I toured the Ratusz (town hall) this morning. It has the history of Poznan from medieval times to pre-WWI. I kept looking for traces of the Jewish community, but only found a few old postcards showing either a synagogue or the Jewish community hospital. No indications that Poznan had one of the oldest and most important Jewish communities in Poland in the late medieval and renaissance period, or that there was an important yeshiva here. No mention of Jews at all, though I was fortunate to find a German map of the city from 1900 that showed where the synagogue was.

I left the museum and headed down Zdowska St. (Jews Street) and turned on to the block where the synagogue should have been. Instead, however, there is just a hole. The site of the former synagogue is an empty lot surrounded on all sides by a 6-foot high metal fence, so that literally one can see the absence of the former Jewish community. No plaques or memorials. Nothing to indicate what once stood here.

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