For my beloved Brother who introduced me to the art of cooking, who taught me how to taste and truly love food. Without him I'd never be able to be where I am today.

September 8, 2014

(Swedish, lit. "place of wild strawberries")

Mr. Antoni, local butcher, in his seventies.

Merely being present in such a place elicits a feeling – happiness, excitement, peace, tranquillity; something you value. The feeling ought to be strong, enduring, and persistent at every visit. This feeling should knock you off your feet, it’s unmistakable. That is a smultronställe.

Preparing natural casing for sausages.

Swołowo, a picturesque village, home of 242 inhabitants, is a juicy appetizer for ethnographers but also gourmands. Located in Pomerenia, Northern Poland, Swołowo is both physically and mentally far from big city life, starred restaurants and other contemporary frenzy.

Very strong home distillate.

The village is something like a well-preserved jar of fermented delights: Time has stopped yet it’s a cradle for modern gastronomy and a source of inspiration for upcoming chefs and food enthusiast. Swołowo’s inhabitants have remained in a time and place, which most people desperately seek to return to, a time where countryside homes had smokeries in the attic, distilleries in shabby eccentric garden huts; a time where cows, sheep and other living creatures roamed around freely before ending up under the butchers’ knives and later in the housewives' steaming pots.

 Polish lamb sausage going to the smoke room.

Nevertheless, Polish food culture seems to be stuck somewhere between tradition and modernity – a reoccurring state of affairs in many other countries alike. The two opposite poles, the authentic villages that serve as banks of traditional food culture and the dynamic big cities fuelled by new blood and novel endeavours, seem to create schism in the foodscape of the country. Seeking a gastronomical identity recognised both home and abroad is a sore battle. How to respect the old and learn from it, but at the same token give up redundant good-olds to make space for fresh and delicious new ideas? The journey towards an established connection between who we are and what we eat is often a schizophrenic combat where utter failure and exquisite invention flirt relentlessly with one another.

On the other hand, it's not like grounded food culture nations such as France and Italy have it all figured out either. In fact, the fear of loosing the precious heritage upon which the Frenchies and Italianos built their acquired taste is as tough a crisis as creating such a foundation to begin with. Having said that, when everything is possible in theory, the overflow of ideas easily leads to total blockage of mind and lack of focus. The good folks of Swołowo were spot on in their traditional techniques, but one may wonder if they recognize it themselves. Or does it even matter? Naming and defining for the sake of a purpose is equally dangerous as necessary.

A home smokers in the attic. 

There’s a magical feel to a place like this village on the northern coast of Poland. It’s almost too good to be true in a Big Fish "Town of Spectre" kind of way. I wonder, was the smell of smoke stronger, the distillates purer and the lamb juicier really, or was it just the antidote to the surroundings of an urban dweller that made the impact so potent? Whatever it was the impact definitely prevails. To stay in Swołowo however, regadless of its authenticity, could be too much.