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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » October 26, 2012
Regional and Traditional Products
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Andruty Kaliskie
October 26, 2012   
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Andruty kaliskie (Kalisz wafers)—sweet and crisp cream-colored wafers—have become a symbol of the town of Kalisz in the Wielkopolska region. In 2009 the name andruty kaliskie became a Protected Geographical Indication.

The wafers, baked in a special round mold (called an andrutnik, andruciarka or simply an “iron”), made from fine wheat flour, sugar and oil, have been sold for over 150 years in Kalisz and its environs. They owe their special reputation to having been sold on Sundays and holidays at the municipal park in Kalisz. They were always the favorite treat of families taking a stroll in the park. The andruty baking tradition has survived to our times.

The product’s link to the local region is based on its reputation as a product whose production in the area can be documented back to the mid-19th century. Kalisz, a town that boasts Poland’s oldest public registers, was a mixture of nations and cultures ever since the Middle Ages. There is substantial evidence that andruty kaliskie were born as an intercultural product, testifying to the intermingling of culinary habits and customs of the different ethnic and religious groups inhabiting Kalisz for centuries.

The andruty kaliskie tradition occupies an important place in the town’s history even though the circumstances of their birth are shrouded in mystery. Even the etymology of the word andruty is unknown, we only know it already existed in the 18th century. According to well-known Polish ethnographer Zygmunt Gloger, the wafers were served for dessert in the 18th century. More detailed information about them did not appear until the mid-19th century.

The production of andruty kaliskie seems to have become well established around 1850 when middle-class customs developed and the town gained a solid financial position. Spending leisure time on Sundays strolling in the municipal park on the Prosna River with the whole family was a popular pastime. At about this time, andruty started being sold there to the public. This is confirmed by an oral tradition passed from generation to generation in families of bakers and consumers alike. This special Kalisz product also appears in the memories of residents immortalized in photos and written narratives.

The production of andruty kaliskie was simple; with the recipe and the proper “irons” the wafers could be made even in quite primitive conditions. They were made at bakeries, homes, manors and also in many stores where they were also sold, though the traditional place to sell them is still Kalisz’s park.

The most lasting proof of andruty baking are “irons” from the 19th century. These often survive with signs of improvements and repairs. They were initially made by blacksmiths, then also other tradesmen, for instance toolmakers. The molds consisted of two smooth circles joined by a hinge.

Andruty have a place in the collective memory as a symbol of the town just as recognizable as the coat of arms and the town hall. No wonder former Kalisz residents scattered all over the world so often ask to be sent the product whose flavor they associate not just with their hometown but also their childhood.
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