March 30 2009 by Sam Lowe
When dining on foreign food in a foreign country, I always face the same dilemma - should I ask what this stuff is made of or do I really want to know?
There was a time, back in my younger years, when I would never hesitate to devour whatever was set in front of me in a restaurant in a faraway place. But now, being a senior, I tend to be a bit more cautious. Some may say it comes with aging; I prefer to call it the wisdom that comes with 60-plus years of experience.
The subject came up again one night in Warsaw. My wife, Lyn, and I spent the day wandering around the old city, which has been magnificently restored after being destroyed during World War II. It was a scrapbook-filling walkathon, easy for senior travelers because that area covers only a few square blocks and the landscape is basically flat.
So we walked at a leisurely pace as befits our years of experience. Without hurrying, we saw the statues in Lazienki Park, sculptures dedicated to the Jewish resistance, the Zamek Kolewski (Royal Castle) and St. John's Cathedral, both in the Stare Miasto (Old Town). We got a senior discount at a museum dedicated to war victims, then lunched at a sidewalk cafe while a military band performed. Horse-drawn buggies, the only means of transportation allowed in the old square, brought thousands of cameras up to thousands of eyes, and relief to those who amble because there's no fear of being run down by a delivery truck.
Since a day like that creates both thirst and hunger. we asked around. The best place for authentic Polish food and atmosphere, we were told, was Folk Gozpoda. We took the advice and the first thing I noticed was a beer drinker's dream come true - a glass of lager that stood four feet high. It had a spigot at the bottom and was surrounded by a number of happy folks who were helping drain it so they could order another one.
An English-speaking waiter brought pre-meal munchies that included little pieces of bread and some white stuff. Famished, we slathered large amounts of white stuff onto the bread and devoured it, one piece after another because whatever it was, it was very good. The waiter observed this and brought more. Finally, with our initial hunger calmed, we asked what the white stuff was. "Lard," he replied.
Since we'd already had our fill of lard, we declined an offer for another serving and ordered pierogis and baked pork ribs to finish the meal. Under the circumstances, they both slid down quite easily.
Then, hand in hand the way seniors are always depicted in foreign films, we strolled back to our hotel and hoped the next day would be as interesting as this one.