In an era of cheaply-made, print-them-quick books, Tabula Book’s beautiful, lushly-produced book, Rose Petal Jam: Recipes and Stories from a Summer in Poland, is a breath of fresh air and proof that the publishing industry hasn’t forgotten how to create artful books.
Rose Petal Jam, written by Beata Zatorska and sensuously photographed by Simon Target, is a memoir, a travelogue, and a cookbook filled with stories of Beata’s childhood, her return to Poland, and her family’s Polish recipes. This book is also the first in a series of four books on Poland that Tabula Books is producing.
The publisher has spared no expense in creating Rose Petal Jam. It’s a big book – 319 hardbound pages, printed on thick matte paper, and illustrated with large, dreamy photos. Even if the writing wasn’t engaging – and it is – this is a book that is luscious to look at.
The authors begin the book with memories of Beata’s childhood with her grandmother, Józefa, who was a second mother to the girl. The writing evokes lovely images: “Today, when I turn a yellowed page filled with my grandmother’s neatly written recipes it is as if I am touching her hand, covered with flour and speckled with diamonds of sugar.” “Down the stone steps in the cellar, hundreds of jars of preserved fruits and vegetables were stockpiled for winter. Like precious jewels found at the back of a dark cave, the jars would glow in the light of my torch: golden pear Kompot – ruby beetroot soup – emerald dill cucumbers – amethyst prune paste.”
The story takes up years after the grandmother’s death when Beata travels with her husband from Australia to Poland. The author tells the tale with stories and vignettes from each area they explore, including Wroclaw, Poznań, the Baltic Sea, Kraków, the Tratra Mountains, and more. As she spins stories of their adventures traveling through the country, the book takes on a travel memoir feel: “… we drove through the countryside of Wielkopolska. We were soon alone on a road that wound through wide golden wheat fields and green apple orchards, with the shadows of clouds and birds drowning in sky blue lakes. … we saw windmills turning on the horizon – poignant symbols of this part of Poland and its long agricultural history.”
Throughout the book, Beata generously sprinkles her grandmother’s, mother’s, and aunt’s recipes. They include classic dishes like pierogi, Poland’s “ravioli,” including pierogi with cheese and potato, with beef, and buckwheat and cheese; “daisy” eggs (hard cooked eggs with a filling of dill, parsley, and chives and fried in butter); Polish beef goulash; Silesian dumpling; and sweets like strawberry roulade and angel wings, delicate ribbons of crispy dough.
Rose Petal Jam is a fascinating book. It not only transported me throughout Poland and back in time through Beata’s childhood memories, it made me want to try these beautifully photographed recipes. Even more, this book has made me want to experience this largely undiscovered and beautiful country for myself. — BH