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A Wedding Feast in Poland

November 27th, 2013 · No Comments · Ceremonies, Eating

In the New Europe, with its common citizenship and consolidated finances,  citizens of  member countries not only can easily dwell and work in other EU countries, but also marry across national borders. But some traditions of the Old Europe nonetheless linger and thrive.  Judith Pierce Rosenberg, the American author of the award-winning cooking memoir, A Swedish Kitchen, discovers this as she attends a wedding feast in rural Poland.

Food is never far away at a Polish wedding and the bride was Polish. So although the couple had met in Dublin and now lived in Ireland with their baby daughter, their wedding took place at a conference hotel overlooking a lake deep in the forested countryside of northeastern Poland, where the bride, Karolina, had grown up. 

I was there as a guest of the Swedish groom, my nephew Carl, who had lived with us for a year when he was 17; my son Michael, Carl’s cousin, was the best man.

While the party went on for hours, the wedding ceremony, conducted by the bride’s uncle in the early evening on the lawn outside the hotel, was brief.  After a champagne toast, and photo ops, everyone headed to the front of the hotel to witness a traditional Polish ritual at the threshold. The parents of the bride and groom offered the newlyweds a loaf of bread, a dish of salt and two glasses of vodka. The nuptial couple downed their drinks and threw their glasses over their shoulders for good luck. Carl then lifted his bride and carried her over the threshold into the large ballroom, signifying that the wedding  party — and the serious eating — could begin in earnest.

The wedding dinner was anything but light. Wild mushroom soup was followed by a main course of tender rolled beef and, for dessert, a cheesecake tart drizzled with raspberry sauce. Bottles of Polish and Swedish vodka graced each table, in honor of the bride and groom’s respective nationalities. 

As soon as the dessert course was cleared away, and the speeches were over, the waiters wheeled in the buffet. Along one wall in the hotel ballroom they set up a  smorgasbord, a series of tables laden with bowls of fruit and platters of salads and cold fish dishes, breads, and covered warming trays filled with hot dishes. In the middle, a table devoted entirely to different kinds of sausages beckoned. The band struck up, and the dancing began, led by the bride and groom.  In between dances, guests might sample the buffet, or have another glass of wine from the open bar, or sit outside in the long twilight, chatting and smoking.

Around 10:00 p.m., only a couple of hours after the arrival of the smorgasbord, the waiters rolled in a succulent roast boar, adorned with giant sparklers that set the fire alarm off. The musicians took a break while everyone ate, and then the band started up again, playing English and American classic rock and contemporary pop, along with the occasional Polish song. The bride threw her bouquet and the groom his cravat, and the guests continued to dance or cooled down at tables outside.

And then, at midnight, came the grand finale: a wedding cake topped with whipped cream and berries, each side flanked by a silver tube gushing sparkly white light.  This time the fire alarm did not sound.

The party continued until 4:00 in the morning, although I left at 2:00. Most of the wedding attendees had small children with them, so nearly everyone, including the bride and groom, was up before 10:00 a.m., sipping coffee on the back deck overlooking the lake or sampling the hearty breakfast buffet of smoked fish and meats, dark and light breads, scrambled eggs and crepes. Those who slept in needn’t have worried about going hungry, for as soon as the breakfast buffet was cleared, the staff started laying out lunch.

© Copyright, Judith Pierce Rosenberg, 2013. Used with permission. Judith is the author of A Swedish Kitchen: Recipes and Reminiscences, winner of a Gourmand Cookbook Award (Hippocrene Books) and now available as an Amazon ebook.


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