June 29, 2017

Day 8-9: Zapraszamy

I blame the lack of yesterday's blog on Polish hospitality. At 2 a.m., full of food and wine and good cheer, the only words I could find were Polish ones. Specifically, one, which I learned this week: Zapraszamy. The literal translation is "We invite you," but it means so much more.

Here is what I have learned about Polish hospitality. 

I've learned that my mother's insistence on feeding guests copious amounts of food and beverage isn't a personality quirk; it's a cultural norm.

No matter where we go, we are greeted with a spread of food. It doesn't matter if it's a meal time or not.

Welcoming nighttime snacks at my aunt's home

We visited some relatives at 3 p.m., which is fruit and dessert hour.

Polish strawberries are in season; I can't get enough of them.

It's not just the food that flows abundantly, but the conversation too. Our coffee visit spilled over into late afternoon, at which point it was time for sausage, bread, and home-infused plum vodka.

Sausage, bread, and vodka hour needs to become a thing.

All of this visiting made for a late dinner at my other cousin's house, which of course had more food and abundant wine.

And more wine.

The amount of care that goes into feeding guests isn't lost on me. My cousin grilled hamburgers and hot dogs to help my little American girl feel at home, and his wife made me a special portion of vegetable salad without onions.

My aunt made a special trip to the farmers' market across town in search of jagody, a tiny forest berry that is perfect in pierogi. They are similar to American blueberries but smaller, more flavorful, and can only be picked by hand from the forests where they grow.

Not my photo, but it's helpful to illustrate the difference.

Jagody got the Evie seal of approval.

I am not sure of all the protocol of being a good Polish guest, but it seemed right to help our hosts finish the open wine after dinner. Even my mother, who normally prefers early bedtimes and sobriety, stayed up until midnight drinking with us. 

I grew up without really knowing my extended family. My parents fled Poland illegally, and were not allowed to return throughout my childhood. My grandmothers and a couple of cousins visited us in America or Western Europe a few times, but the language and distance barriers made it hard for me to keep close relationships. The last time I was here, it was 1993 and I was a moody teenager.

I am overjoyed to discover that my relatives don't hold a grudge about those lost decades. They seem as happy to have us here as we are to be here. I have received invitations to return here, to bring my husband, to visit cousins in other parts of Poland and Europe. I'm getting Facebook friend requests from long-lost relatives, and I am hearing the warmest word that I've learned on this trip: Zapraszamy

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