At Pod Samsonem, a Jewish–Polish restaurant on a pedestrian thoroughfare just north of Warsaw’s Old Town, we take our seats at a picnic table under a red umbrella and order cold beer and cool beet borscht swirled with sour cream, shredded cucumber and fresh dill. “This soup has the genetic fingerprint of our grandmothers,” my brother David announces. It’s so good I could eat it forever.
Lunch continues with juicy fried mushrooms, a strolling musician playing tunes from Fiddler on the Roof (now there’s a man who knows his audience) and a plate of old–school gefilte fish: chopped pickled carp covered in aspic and served with horseradish sauce. While our meal is delightful in every possible way, not all is sitting well with us on this trip to Poland.
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My brother and I had come to explore the Jewish Trail in Krakow, looking for links to our dad’s side of the family along the way. Both of his parents were born in Poland and came to Canada as babies. And while we hadn’t been in the country very long, we’d seen enough to recognize that the faces that met ours, as we ate foot–long zapiekanka sandwiches and sipped third–wave flat whites at Krakow’s cobblestone–lined cafés, did not reflect those of our ancestors. Still, ever the optimist, I felt we could turn this around.