Poland officially the Republic of Poland is a country in Central Europe, situated between the Baltic Sea in the north and two mountain ranges (the Sudetes and Carpathian Mountains) in the south. Bordered by Germany to the west, the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south, Ukraine and Belarus to the east and the Baltic Sea, Kaliningrad Oblast (a Russian exclave) and Lithuania to the north. The total area of Poland is 312,679 square kilometres (120,726 sq miles) making it the 69th largest country in the world and the 9th largest in Europe. With a population of over 38.5 million people, Poland is the 34th most populous country in the world, the 8th most populous country in Europe and the sixth most populous member of the European Union, as well as the most populous post communist member of the European Union. Poland is a unitary state divided into 16 administrative subdivisions.
Polish cuisine is a style of cooking and food preparation originating in or widely popular in Poland. Polish cuisine has evolved over the centuries to become very eclectic due to Poland's history. Polish cuisine shares many similarities with other Slavic countries, especially Czech, Slovak, Belarusian, Ukrainian and Russian cuisines. It has also been widely influenced by other Central European cuisines, namely German, Austrian and Hungarian cuisines as well as Jewish, French, Turkish and Italian culinary traditions. It is rich in meat, especially pork, chicken and beef (depending on the region), winter vegetables (cabbage in the dish bigos) and herbs. It is also characteristic in its use of various kinds of noodles the most notable of which are kluski as well as cereals such as kasha (from the Polish word kasza). Generally speaking, Polish cuisine is hearty and uses a lot of cream and eggs. The traditional dishes are often demanding in preparation. Many Poles allow themselves a generous amount of time to serve and enjoy their festive meals, especially Christmas eve dinner (Wigilia) or Easter breakfast which could take a number of days to prepare in their entirety.
The Polish national dishes are bigos [ˈbiɡɔs]; pierogi [pʲɛˈrɔɡʲi]; kiełbasa; kotlet schabowy [ˈkɔtlɛt sxaˈbɔvɨ] (type of breaded cutlet); gołąbki [ɡɔˈwɔ̃pkʲi] (type of cabbage roll); zrazy [ˈzrazɨ] (type of roulade); roast (Polish: pieczeń) [ˈpʲɛt͡ʂɛɲ]; sour cucumber soup (Polish: zupa ogórkowa) Polish pronunciation: [ˈzupa ɔɡurˈkɔva]; mushroom soup, (Polish: zupa grzybowa) [ˈzupa ɡʐɨˈbɔva] (quite different from the North American cream of mushroom); tomato soup (Polish: zupa pomidorowa) [ˈzupa pɔmidɔˈrɔva]; rosół [ˈrɔsuw] (variety of meat broth); żurek [ˈʐurɛk] (sour rye soup); flaki [ˈflakʲi] (variety of tripe soup); and barszcz [barʂt͡ʂ] among others.
The main meal might be eaten about 2 p.m. or later. It is larger than the North American lunch. It might be composed of three courses especially among the traditionalists, starting with a soup like a popular rosół and tomato soup or more festive barszcz (beet borscht) or żurek (sour rye meal mash) followed perhaps in a restaurant by an appetizer such as herring (prepared in either cream, oil, or in aspic) or other cured meats and vegetable salads. The main course usually includes a serving of meat, such as roast or kotlet schabowy (breaded pork cutlet) or chicken. Vegetables, currently replaced by leafy green salads, were not very long ago most commonly served as surówka [suˈrufka] – shredded root vegetables with lemon and sugar (carrot, celeriac, seared beetroot) or sauerkraut (Polish: kapusta kiszona) [kaˈpusta kʲiˈʂɔna]. The side dishes are usually boiled potatoes, rice or more traditionally kasza (cereals). Meals often conclude with a dessert such as makowiec, a poppy seed pastry, or drożdżówka [drɔʐˈd͡ʐufka], a type of yeast cake. Other Polish specialities include chłodnik [ˈxwɔdɲik] (a chilled beet or fruit soup for hot days), golonka (pork knuckles cooked with vegetables), kołduny (meat dumplings), zrazy (stuffed slices of beef), salceson and flaki (tripe).
With the end of communism in Poland in 1989, an avalanche of new restaurants started to open and the basic foodstuffs were once again easily obtainable. This led to a gradual return of rich traditional Polish cuisine, both in home cooking and in restaurants. At the same time, restaurants and supermarkets promoted the use of ingredients typical of other cuisines of the world. Among the most notable foods that started to become common in Poland were cucurbits, zucchini and all kinds of fish. During communist times, these were available fresh mostly in the seaside regions.
Recent years have seen the advent of a slow food movement, and a number of TV programmes devoted to other cuisine and as well as traditional Polish cuisine have gained popularity. In 2011 a nostalgic cookbook (written in English) combining a child's memories growing up in the Gierek era with traditional Polish recipes was published in London.
American food in Poland, most commonly McDonald's, KFC and Pizza Hut, are declining in popularity as Polish people prefer their own cuisine. Meanwhile, Doner kebabs are starting to gain popularity. Nonetheless, in most of Poland one can still get traditional and very popular Polish fast food such as zapiekanka (baguette with cheese, mushrooms, onion or peppers, sometimes meat and ketchup), kebab, hamburgers, hot dogs and sausage. There are also many small scale, quick-service restaurants which usually serve items such as zapiekanka.