Zapiekanka (pronounced: zah-pier-kahn-kah) – a slightly forgotten fast-food, reminiscent of the last breaths of Communism and early days of the transformation.
Today its legend gets reinvented, thanks to a new wave of a passionate food-lovers.
I was only a child when zapiekanka’s popularity was at its peak.
Yet I fondly remember a 7 or 8 year old-me, sitting on the stairs at the Youth Centre in PKiN, waiting for my art class to start.
You would find me munching on a crispy baguette, cut lengthwise, topped with sautéed mushrooms and melted cheese. It was drained heavily in a low-quality, overly sweet ketchup and guess what…I loved every bite of it.
Even if that Youth Centre’s buffet still exists, it probably offers something much more suitable for the modern taste buds.
With the end of the Communist era came the insatiable hunger for anything foreign ( ideally western) and Polish delicacies were often frowned upon.
Most of the Warsaw downtown – once packed with independent zapiekanka kiosks – is now filled with global players, such as Starbucks and McD’s. It’s getting hard to tell the city apart from any other European capital.
Rebirth of the artisan zapiekanka
It’s no wonder that zapiekanka hasn’t survived in its old form. Made in dubious sanitary conditions, with cheap ingredients and microwaved to death…. With that nasty “beep” sound every minute, kudos to those who made them and didn’t go bananas.
Anne Applebaum called zapiekanka “a pizzalike substance, a poor relative of its distant Italian cousin”. While that was true 30 years ago – luckily, it’s no longer a fair comparison.
Fun fact: In Polish, we use the word “zapiekanka” for any casserole-style dish. It comes from the verb “zapiekać” , which means “to bake”.
Baked open-faced sandwiches are slowly crawling back onto the Polish food scene. This comeback is driven by the wave of the Communist nostalgia – more so in terms of design and lifestyle of that era, rather than the ideology itself.
Good old zapiekanka got revamped and improved. With a trend towards local (almost artisan) foods, bar owners are opting for high quality ingredients and varied flavour combinations.
Crusty, freshly-baked bread, covered with an array of toppings, under a divine coat of melted cheese… Oven baked, without any microwave in sight… who would be able to resist?
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