What a holiday!

Let me take you with me on a holiday to Grójec Wielki in western Poland. I can do it in a few words: mushrooms, kayaking, food – and twins, of course. The house is capacious overlooking an above-ground swimming pool; a table and a fireplace; a jetty; and the lake, which unfortunately we can’t swim in because of algal bloom. There we are: four grandparents, two parents and Jaś and Maja.

The stars of the week are mushrooms and what Ola and Jurek do with them. Jurek and J go mushrooming for a few hours and return with a basket and a bucket full. They tip them out on the bench in the shed, or the table near the jetty, where they are brushed off, sorted and sliced. 

Ola strings some on fishing line to dry for the Christmas pierogis: these hang on the deck to dry during the day and then festoon the living room, hanging from the curtain rails. 

Some become mushroom stew; some are pickled in vinegar and allspice and are eaten on breakfast bread; some are turned into mushroom soup eaten over pasta, handmade by M and Ola.

That’s not the end of living off the land. A harvest of wild peaches becomes peach compote and the evening vodka is decorated with mint from the edge of the lake. Wild sorrel transforms into a slightly bitter soup based on duck stock and rich with cream.

Jurek grates and squeezes potatoes to make pancakes we fail to savour properly because a wasp stings Jaś and we’re terrified he’ll have an allergic reaction. He doesn’t, but he shrieks with the pain until he’s comforted by sugar pancakes, art (Tata’s drawings of wasps) and literature (particularly Mummy’s story about cousin Ari being stung by a whole nest of wasps.)

I don’t go on the morning mushroom jaunts, but I do take an afternoon mushroom ramble in the forest with Maja and J. Perched on his shoulders she has the job of mushroom spotter as we traverse the mossy ground, sometimes dug over by pigs or deer. She knows my favourite colour is purple and she finds me a purple assemblage.

Apart from an occasional foray to the shop, once on a rainy day which was a gift to mushroomers and snails, we don’t go farther afield. (The last two snails are water snails.)

Everyone goes out in kayaks, either down to the bridge where there are baby swallows still in the nest, or up to the lake where I see a heron close up as it swoops towards harassing gulls. Maja handles the paddles by herself with some aplomb. Jaś wants a life jacket that will save him. I go with my daughter, a rare chance to chat without interruption: and with J who noses in amongst mosquito infested reeds to look at wooden boats and take photos and measurements. I shame myself totally at disembarkation time: I have to be hauled out. When the kayaks aren’t being paddled the twins use them for surfboards.

There’s plenty to occupy three year olds. They pick flowers and pat slugs; suck the innards out of blood sausage; throw back the tiny fish dziadek catches; draw with charcoal, and a stick on the sandy road. On the swing Maja says “I’m going to do a blimey charlie”: that’s what we say in admiration when she hangs upside down.  Then you hear a plaintive voice drawling “Who’s going to push me?” and know it’s time to put down the beer and the conversation and start the rocket ship countdown as you push them very high. They help to gather sticks for the bonfire and toast marshmallows. Inside they make dens for yabbies and bunyips out of the lounge cushions.

Of course a week isn’t long enough. But I have something to look forward to when we return to Warsaw. My Australian daughter arrives for her holiday.

About morselsandscraps

A retired Australian who spends a lot of time in Warsaw, and blogs as a way of life.
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27 Responses to What a holiday!

  1. Suzanne says:

    What a wonderful holiday. All those varieties of mushrooms and the way your Polish relatives preserve them is fascinating.


  2. Sue says:

    What a fabulous time you had! I was fascinated by the proper living off the land, cooking and preserving….that we no longer have the time, energy or will to do! Beats processed food any day. And loved your collage of mushrooms! Glad to see you back, Meg, I’ve missed your posts


  3. Beautywhizz says:

    Lovely family time. As kids we always went mushroom foraging. Your mushroom gallery is amazing. Have a lovely time with your daughter.


  4. Heyjude says:

    Proper Swallows and Amazons stuff! I love to see kids barefoot and dirty and enjoying themselves without all the material stuff we thrust upon them these days – they will grow up with wonderful memories of these halcyon days and time spent with all their grandparents. My parents and in-laws never even met! Ola and Jurek obviously went prepared for that mushroom bonanza. I wouldn’t dare eat mushrooms foraged myself. Have fun with Aussie daughter and see you later – we are off to Scotland via a very convoluted route and not back until the end of September so I won’t be around much either. xx


    • Fortunately my daughter understands dirty kids: today I returned them covered in chalk. These two are very inventive so games arise out of nothing. I think the only preparation Ola and Jurek made was their knowledge: the mushrooms were collected in the wood basket, and a small handled garbage bin; the fishing line was line Jurek brought to fish with; the jars for pickles were jars we emptied. We were very lucky to get rain followed by sun: everyone was out mushrooming, cars parked all along the dirt road as people went off into the forest. Jurek was very choosy about the mushrooms: he discounted some because he didn’t like the flavour. I had no hesitation eating what passed his scrutiny.

      My daughter has more energy than the twins, I think. I hope I can keep up!

      Have a great trip: I hope the convolutions are convolutions of pleasure. It’ll be a bit silent in the blogosphere without you.


  5. restlessjo says:

    Third time lucky! 🙂 I’ve popped over a time or two but ‘nobody was home’. Lovely to find you here with all this domesticity, which puts me to shame. Though I have created a few apple pies and crumbles lately. I know what you mean about the commenting because once you get drawn in, you’ve lost! In a nice way 🙂 I went mushrooming with the Polish family too but it must have been too early in the year. Astounding variety! I don’t much like them pickled, but any other way.
    Love the compotes too- especially cherry 🙂 Have a wonderful time with your daughters. Hugs for the tots 🙂 🙂


    • I’m going to continue erratic because I have a series of visitors. We were very lucky with the mushrooming: a day of rain and then warmth. Pickled they were a good adjunct to a Polish breakfast, although they were only a day old. No doubt they flavour up in time. The compote: confession time. I was washing up and I emptied the tea pot. As it went down the sink I realised it was the compote. My daughter is in and out. She sleeps over the way as much as here, and today she’s making gingerbread dogs with Maja and Jaś. She’s a great aunty.


  6. Lucid Gypsy says:

    Meg! It’s wonderful to see yo , I’ve missed you 🙂 I had no idea you could do so much with mushrooms, although I’m not sure about pickled ones. Wild peach compote sounds heavenly, I hope you got to take some home, but perhaps it can’t be preserved. I wouldn’t be able to get out of a kayak either, I don’t get it, do you have to stand up or slither your way out? I’d drown in the process. You’ve made lovely memories with Maya and Jas on this trip, I can imagine them telling their grandchildren all about it. Have a lovely time with your daughter, daughters are awesome. With love,Gx


    • I’m going away again so I can get such a warm welcome back! As for the kayak, there was no manoeuvring room in the front seat. I’m ungainly rising at the best of times, but I had no purchase. Fortunately I made a snap decision to go out the second time, before I remembered the problem. I nearly turned Ola off the pleasure by my incapacity.

      I hope the memories remain. At the moment there’s remembering capacity that I envy. As soon as they saw Franki, Jaś said “You cut your foot and it bled.” That was in February.

      Daughters are indeed awesome!


  7. Pingback: Warsaw 2019 – Visiting Warsaw: 2018 & 2019

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