Although the pierogies were verboten, that didn’t mean I couldn’t indulge in another of my Polish faves, the golabki or golumbki or galumpki or any other of the million different ways I’ve seen it spelled. Typically, it’s golabki in Polish. It’s basically just a cabbage roll filled with a mix of pork and rice and then served with either a tomato sauce or a mushroom gravy. Obviously I prefer it with the tomato sauce, as the gravy is most likely not gluten-free in the slightest.
The best places to get these are at something called a bar mleczny, which literally means milk or dairy bar in Polish. Basically they are similar to an old-fashioned luncheonette, a bare-bones cafe-type place. You go up to the county and pick out what you want from the hot bar or from a simple menu. You usually wind up with a big plate of food that ends up costing you very little. These are the places where the menu typically doesn’t have an English translation and you’re eating alongside “real” people instead of tourists. Apparently these bare-bones places were originally established by communist authorities in the 1950s “to ensure that everyone had at least one hot meal a day.” They are definitely a cultural experience that’s not be missed.
In the first such place I tried, I got my cabbage rolls with the tomato sauce. They were good, but a little bland. But who could argue with the cheap price?
Unfortunately, my next two golabki orders didn’t come with tomato sauce, but rather with mushroom gravy, which is not nearly as tasty. And as I mentioned, probably not gluten-free. This is where I became a really bad, non-conscientious celiac who may suffer some bad, bad consequences some day, although amazingly it hasn’t been too bad so far. I didn’t want to throw away decent food and I was hungry, so despite knowing better, I tried to just scrape off the gravy. I know how stupid I was being, but …well, I can’t explain. I just wanted them. And truth be told, these pairs of golabkis were much tastier as far as the filling goes. If they’d had my preferred tomato sauce (which I think tastes better,) I would have been one happy camper, er, traveler.