11 Oct, 2008
Smalec – Poland’s favourite starter?
Posted by: Michał In: feeeed me!
I remember when I was a kid and my mom made smalec (basically pork drippings – LARD, in other words) I used to run a mile. I hated this stuff – nothing but pig’s fat with pepper, some onion and – if you’re lucky – some herbs.
Nowadays, when you go to a restaurant in Poland, it’s almost a custom to be served fresh country bread on a wooden chopping board with, yes, that’s right, smalec. And all that before you even managed to look at the menu properly.
I remember it from a restaurant in Kraków called Chłopskie Jadło (Peasant Food) in the late 1990s. It was something new – an old favourite, reinvented. (And so was the place – all of a sudden it was cool to sit in a dark restaurant which looked like a mountain peasant’s room, with wooden floors and walls, big fireplace and freshly baked bread; nowadays Chłopskie Jadło is a chain and has had hundreds of more or less successful clones).
So up until then smalec was in my mind something really uncool. But not any more. I like it now, but you have to be careful with this stuff. Not just because it’s artery-clogging saturated fat. But because it’s addictive. Like many unhealthy kinds of food – chips, crisps, deep-fried Mars bars… Er, ok, went a bit too far there. It’s addictive and – once you’ve convinced yourself that you won’t die on the spot after a single slice – you simply want more and more. And by the time your main course arrives, you’re full.
I’m quite realistic and I know posting a recipe for smalec on here is a bit counterproductive, so I won’t do it. But next time you’re near that stuff, try it! And let me know what you thought.
Image © orangejon via Flickr used under CC licence