I was not going to leave Poland without a fine dish of Bigos–one of the most popular soups on my website, at least in drawing extremely opinionated commentary. Not for vegetarians! It is crammed with meats and sausages, with the sweetness of apples more than balanced by the sharpness of sauerkraut–and it is traditionally served as a good-luck New Year’s dish. Well, I say that, but it’s a relatively recent tradition since only Polish aristocracy could hunt game on their estates…and only they could afford so much meat.
Adam Mickiewicz, in his 1834 epic Pan Tadeusz , speaks to the heart of this tradition, which resonates with Poles around the world:
“Bigos was being cooked in every kettle
In human language it is hard to settle
The marvels of its odor, hue and taste;
In poetry’s description one has traced
Only the clinking words and clanging rhymes….
This bigos is no ordinary dish,
For it is aptly framed to meet your wish.
Founded upon good cabbage, sliced and sour,
Which, as men say, by its own zest and power
Melts in one’s mouth, it settles in a pot
And its dewy bosom folds a lot
Of the best portions of selected meats;
Scullions parboil it then, until heat
Draws from its substance all the living juices,
And from the pot’s edge, boiling fluid sluices
And all the air is fragrant with the scent.”
But the soup itself, it’s not pretty, is it? And unexpectedly thick. So I leave you to contemplate the culinary heart of Poland in the very heart of Polish history–at Krakow’s towering Wawel Cathedral, home of the relics of St. Stanislaw and Saint Jadwiga, boneyard of Jagiellonian kings, and final resting place of that extraordinary poet and patriot Adam Mickiewicz. And do rush out to get the fixings of Bigos–recipe at http://www.soupsong.com/rbigos.html.