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Off the Eaten Path: Winter weather calls for comfort foods

Talking perogies and more with the owners of Broken English Bistro

It’s getting cold outside in these parts. This weather demands some comfort food: traditional and sentimental that usually reminds us of something in our past.

I suppose in 1958 when the term was first used, one would turn to foods that were prepared in their own childhood home. In 2021 when we have been exposed to so many international cuisines, the possibilities really are endless.

When I think of comfort foods I think of soups, stews, pasta and casseroles like lasagna, shepherd’s pie, and cabbage rolls. Well I may have found a special place for some of these comfort foods in Guelph. 

Personally, I have an affection for homemade, from scratch, home cooking and anything prepared by someone who looks remotely like a grandmother. In Italian culture, anything made by a 'nonna' is synonymous with goodness and comfort. I think the same could be said for a lot of cultures and Polish culture is no exception. 

I recently went to visit Broken English Bistro, located in Guelph’s east end. As soon as I opened the door and entered, I felt like I was entering someone’s home. I was greeted by the aroma of home cooking. Good, old fashioned, scratch cooking. It reminded me of entering one of my aunt’s homes on a Sunday at 1 p.m., just as pranzo was being served. The decor was warm and simple with a brick wall but it wasn’t the decor that made it feel like a home, it was the aroma! 

I met with Danuta Rusiecki that afternoon in the sunny dining room of the bistro she and her husband of 42 years, Edward Rusiecki, opened in September of 2017. They waited until Edward retired from a 25 year long trucking career before pursuing Danuta’s lifelong dream to open her own restaurant.

“It was always my dream to open my own place," Rusiecki told me. 

They are both originally from Warsaw, Poland, and immigrated to Canada in 1992. Danuta grew up cooking with her mother and grandmother back in Poland and it was there she discovered her passion in the kitchen. All the recipes she uses today are her own family recipes that she has perfected. 

The day we met, Edward and his sister were in the kitchen making their number one menu item – handmade perogies. Currently they offer three varieties: potato and cheddar cheese, chicken and pork, and also potato and cottage cheese. They are all served with bacon, chives and sour cream. 

Danuta’s favorite menu item is the Gypsy schnitzel which is a locally butchered, breaded pork cutlet with a sweet and sour, semi-spicy sauce with tomatoes, peppers and local Hungarian sausage. It is served with mashed potatoes and a salad. 

Even the pandemic could not keep the customers away from all these delicious, home cooked, comfort food items. Other than being closed for two weeks in March of 2020 the Broken English Bistro has been providing takeout and curbside pickup which has been welcomed by their customers. They have now reopened to indoor dining as well. 

Their regular clientele and the local Polish community know where to go for great Polish food in the area for either “ready to eat” or “frozen and finished at home." Late November they will have  frozen sauerkraut, frozen mushroom perogi and frozen uszka, stuffed with mushrooms (like tortellini pasta, served with borscht) for those wishing to serve some traditional Polish holiday specialities in their own homes.

I have always wanted to learn to make perogies from scratch but I don’t think I need to now because I know where to get some really good ones made by a Polish babcia!