The end of autumn is probably not the best season for a Warsaw city visit and even a devoted local patriot like me would admit it. Let be honest about it: the weather conditions are questionable at best and it is getting dark around 3-4 PM and you can forget about seeing the Sun earlier in the day. What is worse, gloomy days weight heavy on the people’s moods so no smiling faces around you. Well, there are some places where you can recharge your batteries – the city’s farmers’ markets. Why?
The winter holidays are coming and the Varsovians are about to get their supply. The people frantically shop for presents but also for food as, traditionally, there are some special dishes for Christmas and most of us do cook family meals on the festive days.
Truth to be told some dishes can be prepared in advance: like home made poppy seed filling for cakes, dumplings, pancakes and łazanki, a local variety of square-shape pasta. Then, it is advisable to start with baking ASAP as we like to decorate our Christmas trees with edibles: gingerbread figurines, apples, candies in glossy papers and so on together with baubles, elaborate glass ornaments called in Polish bombki.
The menu for Christmas is complex: roasts, pates, sausages and cold cuts for the 25th and 26th of December but in Warsaw we follow the all Polish tradition of having a special feast on Christmas Eve (the 24th Dec). Honestly, the timing is tricky as according to the Catholic liturgy it is a fasting day i.e. fish and veggies only. Additionally, there should be twelve different dishes to honour the Twelve Apostles and hence the most elaborated delicacies are to be prepared.
Today it is mostly fish both local (such as carp) and imported, large quantities of herrings and beets, mushrooms, sauerkraut, dried fruits for compotes and nuts, poppy seeds and raisins. However, there were some other dishes our ancestors favoured for the occasion. In a cookbook and bestseller: 356 dinners for 5 złotys that was published in 1860 by a Varsavian Lucyna Ćwierczakiewiczowa (one of our typical Polish easy-to-pronounce surnames) we may find for example several Christmas recipes for pike, pike-perch or perch and….. kale with caramelised chestnuts.
All in all, a vist to a farmers’ market during Advent (40 days period before the actual Christmas) may be the best cure for an autumn spleen. And here is what I found at the market in the Forteca Kręgliccy that is held every Wednesday and it is located in the 19th century fort built at the northern end of the Old Town in Warsaw (12 Zakroczymska St.)