Kociewie is a part of the picturesque Pomorskie region that stretches between the Vistula River and Tuchola Pinewoods. Cities and towns such as Tczew, Starogard Gdański, or Świecie are full of treasures and souvenirs that remind us of the old days of Eastern Pomerania. One of the elements of the rich culture of Kociewie is its cuisine, with flavors not found anywhere else.
This cuisine stands out with its wide range of flavours, diversity, and simple ingredients. Normally, a housewive would prepare meals from ingredients found in the garden around the house, on a meadow, in a forest, or in an enclosure.
The cuisine is abundant in potatoes, rutabaga, groats, eggs, cabbage, and fruit, such as plums (the Lower Vistula Valley area is famous for its delicious plum jam), or apples. All goods and crops from the area between Vistula and Tuchola Pinewoods were used in traditional cuisine of Kociewie and, in effect, all these products were present in every household in the region.
Interestingly, fish caught in surrounding ponds, rivers, and lakes were important part of everyday diet, and very often basic ingredients of many meals. One of the favorite was onion- and curd-marinated herring.
It was considered a red-letter day, when meat appeared on the table. When it did, it was mainly locally-bred poultry. However, due to deeply-rooted Prussian tradition, pork was also very popular among the local population. Among favorite dishes were such specialties as karbónada cutlets with cabbage, or zylc, traditional pork aspic made from ham hock and legs.
Usually, three main meals were served during the day. Breakfast usually consisted of porridge called “zacierka”, served with noddles. Sometimes, breakfast would start with mashed potatoes and ersatz coffee.
Dinner consisted of a nutritious eintopf, a one-pot meal in a form of a very thick soup. It is worth noting that soups were the base of Kociewie cooking. Eintopf was made with cabbage, potatoes, different vegetables, and meat chunks, depending on what was currently at hand.
After dinner, different kinds of cakes and other desserts would be served. Children particularly enjoyed lemon pudding made with eggs, the so-called “szpajza” , or marmalade-filled doughnuts.
It is not all. Local specialties are gaining recognition both in Poland, and around the world. Angel wings – “grochowinki kociewskie” were included on the list of Traditional Polish Products of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in 2006. This list also contains traditional gingerbread – “fefernuski kociewskie” – as well as many other local delicacies.
Dinner meals included bread with lard or, in richer families, scrambled eggs with fatback and onions, potato pancakes, or “ruchanki” , traditional pancakes of Kociewie.
Some of the traditional dishes can also be found in Kashubian cuisine. Due to close proximity of both regions, it would have been impossible for both culinary traditions not to merge with each other in some fashion. It is also worth noting that many of the names of local foods have been derived from the German language.
It is difficult to come across any mentions of traditional recipes that were used in households across Kociewie. The reason is simple: while courts were full of well-educated people who could read and write, and take down culinary stories, dwellers of the countryside and inns didn’t consider reading or writing to be their basic need. This is why knowledge about local culinary tradition, and recipes, was passed mostly orally, from generation to generation. As a result, many of the elements would be forgotten, and Kociewie cuisine nowadays is mainly about childhood memories, and flavors: remembered and passed on from generation to generation.