Growing up, I thought my mother was the best chef in the world. Pot roast, meatloaf, enchiladas, tamales; these were the smells of home drifting through the halls that lured me out of my room each evening. We never had anything too exotic at our home, but what my mother made made was always delicious.
As I got older, my culinary horizons broadened, and I began to explore different types of flavors and cuisines. I've tried to better appreciate all types of foods (because really, is there a purpose for asparagus when you're 12?), and how they're prepared in various cultures.
So what does all of this have to do with a guy named General Pulaski?
Well...let me tell you a little bit about him first.
General Casimir Pulaski was a Polish military commander who emigrated to America at the request of Benjamin Franklin and fought in the Revolutionary War. Through a series of heroic instances, he was given the title of Brigadier General of the Continental Army Calvary. He is credited with reforming the American Calvary as a whole, which helped greatly assist in the army's defeat of British forces during the war. In 1779, as he helped lead the charge at the Siege of Savannah, Pulaski was mortally wounded and died days later. Pulaski is remembered as hero in the battle for freedom and independence both in America and Poland. There are several monuments in his honor; the White House even issues a yearly proclamation declaring October 11th as General Pulaski Day (this year's proclamation can be found here).
Unfortunately, I missed the General Casimir Pulaski parade - the 78th annual parade was apparently held last Sunday, October 4th in New York City along 5th Ave.
So I came up with the next best way to celebrate this highly memorialized Polish-American hero of Revolutionary War.
I celebrated with food.
(I know...big surprise, right?)
Welcome to the best Polish restaurant in Los Angeles -
As silly as this may sound, I never even knew that there was such a thing as Polish cuisine. I mean, it stands to reason there would be such a thing - but it never really crossed my mind to search it out until today. So when I tell you that I had no idea what to expect, believe me, I had no idea what I was in for. Turns out, Polish cuisine is simply amazing comfort food with really exotic sounding names.
Pierogis, Placki, Zrazy - all of these strange and foreign sounding dishes were somehow all so familiar. Placki are potato pancakes, similar to potato latkes. Pierogi is the Polish equivalent of empanadas or pot-stickers (depending on how you have them prepared - you can get them either fried or steamed). Zrazy is a stuffed sirloin that we had served over spätzle (shredded dumplings).
The food is as much fun to say as it is good to eat!
This food reminded me of the type of food my mother would have made if she was Polish. Thick, hearty sauces so well seasoned and filling. Fried foods so light they almost melted in your mouth. Everything had such a comfortable taste about it - I'm ashamed to admit that I haven't been enjoying this cuisine all along.
And it wasn't just the food; I felt as though we were immersed in the culture throughout the whole meal. The people at the table behind us were Russian, the group across the room was conversing in Polish, our server Jasmine was from Germany. The words and various accents drifting through the air were so foreign and yet melodic; it almost made me feel we were miles away from Santa Monica and somewhere at a family's home in Eastern Europe having dinner.
I cannot even begin to describe to you the amazing-ness of this dessert. Almond mousse with cassis sauce. My taste buds died and went to niebo.
So to General Pulaski, I offer a heartfelt bardzo dziękuję! for his bravery and contribution to American history. The Polish-American community has a lot to be proud of in their patriotic hero who helped contribute to America's freedom and the place we all call home. Personally, I'm also grateful not only for his historic contribution, but to the inspiration he offered in something so simple as the discovery of a new cuisine to add to my culinary repertoire. It may not be exactly what came out of my mother's kitchen, but somehow it still felt like home.