Poland-born Peter Pysk is a man of many stories. Affable and candid, he tells the fascinating stories of his family history with a straightforward honesty that is compelling and even mesmerizing. The traditional Polish food which he and his wife, Mia, create together are laced with stories of his ancestry, and the proud Polish heritage that has survived in their family amidst political turmoil back home.
Pysk’s family left communist Poland while he was in the womb and found refuge in Australia, where they sought to rebuild new lives in the foreign land. Despite being born and growing up in Australia (he proudly considers himself equally Polish and Australian), Pysk tells us that he grew up in a household that was “as Polish as Polish can be,” with food and traditions that he normally would have had in Poland. He recalls his days as a new student there, bringing thin kabanos kielbasa (Polish for sausage), whole tomato and bread rolls to school for lunch amidst the PB&J and Vegemite sandwiches. After a month of trepidation, his classmates mustered up the courage to try his strange meal whose garlic-scent filled their classrooms, and the once unnerving kielbasa soon became the most in-demand lunch for trade.
Food, (its acquisition and creation) was not only a large part of his childhood, but a central theme to his culture. So when he married his partner Mia, his mother took it upon herself to teach Mia traditional Polish recipes, including the symbolic national dish of Poland: the pierogi. The half-moon shaped dumpling with curls along its curved edge is traditionally filled with any combination of meat, cheese and potatoes. When the couple would have friends over, Mia would prepare pierogis for their friends, who were so captivated by its flavors that they would request to take some home. Word got around and soon Peter and Mia were receiving requests for their pierogis from strangers. Thus was the accidental birth of the brand.
As they developed an enthusiastic market for their pierogis, Pysk expanded Babci Kuchnia offerings to include homemade fresh sausages in three styles: Biała kielbasa, bratwurst, and Italian sweet sausage. The kielbasa and bratwurst are adapted from his grandfather’s own recipes, with the bratwurst recipe coming from his grandfather’s time in German captivity during World War 2 after being taken in the Battle of Warsaw. Unlike the smoked sausages of Poland (a process difficult to replicate in the Philippines due to our humid conditions), Psyk makes fresh, raw, preservative- and nitrate-free sausages that have a grittier texture than the smoked alternative, and is more hearty in flavor.
It is only apt, for a man whose identity and relationship with food it so intertwined with his family history, that the brand is named for his ancestors. Babci Kuchnia literally translates to Grandmother’s Kitchen. Sure enough the flagship product, the pierogi, is an iteration of his great-grandmother’s original recipe, which has been passed down and adapted through the generations.
The logo of the brand (red and white like the colors of the Polish flag) features a pierogi with 8 curls along the edge. “The eight curls represent the journey of the recipe,” Psyk tells us. “From our great-grandmother, to our 2 grandmothers, then to my 3 aunties and my mother, and then to me and my wife. So we’re the smallest curl there.” Babci Kuchnia intends to expand their brand and share more aspects of Polish food culture with the Philippines, with the hope of inspiring younger generations in Manila to rejoice in the process of making honest-to-goodness, junk-free, feel-good food.
Babci Kuchnia makes preservative-free Polish pierogi and traditional fresh sausages from natural ingredients. They serve cooked items at the Saturday Salcedo Market and Sunday Legazpi Market. You can find their frozen products in Wine Depot stores across Metro Manila, as well as in Real Food in Molito, Alabang.