Stanisław Czerniecki’s collection of dishes
Traveling back to the first Polish cookbook
Stanisław Czerniecki was a chef and writer, best known as the author of Compendium ferculorum, albo Zebranie potraw (A Collection of Dishes), the first cookbook written in the Polish language.
Throughout his life, he served some of the greatest magnates in Polish history, including the Wielopolski, Zamoyski, Wiśniowiecki and Lubomirski families. It was during his role as head chef at the court of Prince Aleksander Michał Lubomirski that Czerniecki wrote his first cookbook.
Compendium ferculorum was printed in 1682 and came three decades after the French cookbook titled Le Cuisinier françois (The French Cook) by François Pierre de La Varenne, who started a gastronomic revolution in 17th century Europe.
Czerniecki signed his work as ‘master chef’ (kuchmistrz) to Prince Aleksander Michał Lubomirski and dedicated it to the prince’s wife and his own “most charitable lady and benefactress,” Princess Helena Tekla Lubomirska.
The cookbook contains 300 recipes divided into three chapters, with each devoted to meat, fish and other dishes and concluding with a ‘master chef’s secret’. Czerniecki’s cooking style was common for hedonistic Polish Baroque cuisine. His pantry items included meats of farm animals and game like snow bunting and great bustard.
He also included a list of cereals, pasta, mushrooms, turnip-rooted chervil, or popie jajka (‘priest’s balls’), as Czerniecki dubbed it. Under the heading of spices, he added saffron, black pepper, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, mace and cumin – all of which were used abundantly in his kitchen – in addition to powdered sugar, rice, raisins, citrus fruits and even smoked ham and smoked beef tongue, which were used as seasonings.
The idea was to overwhelm the guests with lavishness and flaunt the host’s wealth, although when it came to spending, he cautioned against both waste and unnecessary thrift. Czerniecki’s goal was to focus on what he called ‘Old Polish dishes’ as opposed to exploring foreign recipes. He argued that a skilled chef must be able to accommodate foreign visitors with dishes from their own cuisines. He even criticized the use of wine common in French cooking. “Every dish may be cooked without wine”, he wrote, “it suffices to season it with vinegar and sweetness.”