If you’ve been following my posts from Poland, you have heard a little bit about Radek. Radek is a friend of the family. He is 28 and lives in Poland. For this trip, he arranged to spend the entire time with us, working with my mother for the past several months to make arrangements and reservations, hiring guides in various cities. Now he is doing all of the driving, and constantly translating for us.
While nearly everyone speaks some English here, there are still a surprising number of situations in which the conversation needs some Polish clarification and Radek has been our savior throughout.
He is from Czestochowa so when we visited there, he asked us to come and have dinner with his family. We gladly accepted, and when his mother heard that we loved the Polish stuffed cabbage roles called Galumpki, she asked her mother to make up a batch for dinner! This is a time-consuming and labor-intensive dish!
One of the things we have noticed in Poland in our limited time here is that it seems more common here for multiple generations of a family to live together. Radek and his wife live in an apartment in her parents’ house. Radek’s grandmother lives with his parents.
By contrast, my sisters and I all ended up in different cities from where we grew up and my mother spends her winters out west.
We got to Radek’s parents’ house and they have a beautiful meal set up on the table. We sat down to a cheese tray and homemade dill pickles that brought a tear to my mom’s eye they were so much like what she remembered growing up!
Krzystzof and Jola Ciejpa are Radek’s father and mother. Jola (ee-oh-la) speaks pretty good English but Krystzof (sheez-toff) really did not speak English, nor did Radek’s grandmother who, like my Polish great grandmother was called Babka. Radek’s wife Magda could understand a lot of English but was not to a comfort level yet with speaking it.
All of this made for a very interesting dynamic. At the beginning the meal it was a little stiff, and almost awkward, because all conversations went through Radek and we would wait while he translated.
Gradually, however, we all got comfortable–first with a little champagne, then with food, then with vodka!
As the evening progressed, many side conversations developed and there was a lot of gesturing! People would yell across the table to one of the few English speaking Poles, “Hey, Radek, tell her I love this sauce!” or “Hey Carol, where are your Polish relatives from?”
When they brought out the galumpki, I thought I would weep. We all did! It looked and smelled so good! It had so much history baked into it for us and Radek’s family was proud to be able to offer this to us.
That is when Krzystzof spoke to Radek and Radek looked to me and said, “My dad says the proper way to enjoy galumpki is with vodka.” It was on!
I was sitting next to his dad at the end near the end of the table and we are approximately the same age. I had told him how proud he should be of Radek and how pleased we were to be here. He, in turn, had communicated how proud he was to host us.
He poured shots of cold vodka for several of us and his family. We were told the first shot needed to go down in one motion. It was smooth, and so delicious! We heard the bottoms of shot glasses thunk on the table all around. We dug into the galumpki and conversation picked up more and more steam.
A few minutes later Kryzystzof asked everyone if they’d like a second vodka. I accepted with pleasure, and I think my mom and Radek’s mom had another. By now if you could have heard the conversation from the next room you would have thought it was a party of 30 people! We were laughing and telling stories and Radek and his mother were translating and adding on to them.
Every now and then Krzystzof would subtly nudge me and nod to the glass and I would the international facial expression for “hell yeah!” I had, however, begun sipping my shots when I got them and was getting full–not to mention drunk! At one point he gave me an elbow and without words said to me, “C’mon, drink it like a man!” At which we toasted and tossed ’em back!
We moved to the living room for salad and dessert. Jola pulled out photo albums of Radek and his brother and we talked about how the galumpki was made. Some time ago I posted a recipe for my own galumpki, including a vegetarian version. It was nothing like the one’s Radek’s grandmother made. These had a very consistent filling, almost sausage like, and the cabbage around them was so delicate it was like pasta. Jola promised to send me the recipe but there will need to be a lot of translating.
The night finally had to come to a close because it was getting late and we were leaving for Krakow the next morning. There were hugs and kisses all around and we parted as dear friends.
The next morning, Krzystzof drove over to our hotel to see us off. He brought paczkis! He also brought a traditional Polish cake and a bottle of mead for later. He stayed and had breakfast at the hotel with us and gave us all hugs and wished us well as we left with his son to continue our trip.
While I have greatly enjoyed all of the castles and exciting night life, the history and culture, this sort of traditional Polish dinner was a top priority for me and it was one of the best experiences of the entire trip!