Because we are now media giants who have been mentioned on the evening news at least twice, all kinds of global corporations regularly get in touch with us asking how they too can become movers and shakers on Poland’s internets. As long as they can satisfy Scatts’ insatiably lust for Hummers, we try to help them out.
Hummers—we accept them as payment
This month, television production company Tremendous! Entertainment (corporate slogan: Yes, we really do have an exclamation mark in our name! Also in our slogan.) Wrote and asked if we could tell them about bizarre Polish food they could feature in an upcoming episode of their Travel Channel program: Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern. The premiss of the show is that a bald man travels to various countries and eats things that most Americans would call an exterminator to deal with. Asia, multi-legged insects and unusually-coloured eggs feature heavily. Weird foods in Poland—”You’re going to struggle” was my initial thought. Polish food can be very nice, but it’s not exactly unconventional from a Western perspective. An example of the program here.
A bald man and friend looking enthusiastic about new culinary experiences—in Asia
Every country wishes it had bizarre food, but few outside of the Pacific Rim can deliver. Numerous times Polish people have taken me aside and explained confidentially about kaszanka and oscypek as if they were revealing a national weakness for human flesh—black pudding and sheep cheese, wow. They don’t even eat deep-fried Mars bars here.
Nevertheless, I promised to write a post about typical Polish food and, therefore, plan to take the opportunity to rant in my customary manner.
Polish people who move to the UK inevitably complain that the meat and vegetables taste like poorly-illustrated cardboard versions of the real thing, and they are absolutely right. Unfortunately these same Polish people leap to the conclusion that only tomatoes grown in Poland and pork raised on Polish restaurant scraps are worth eating. The real difference is between supermarket fare and locally-grown produce. Buy tomatoes in Poland and they taste like they were grown in your neighbour’s garden because, they were grown in your neighbour’s garden. On the other hand, go to your local Carrefour in Poland and you’ll find square metres of tomatoes that taste like incompetently-coloured water—just like in England. The difference here is between an economy where agriculture is still a significant contributor and an economy where we are far too busy trading in imaginary tomato futures to actually grow any. One day soon Poland’s food supply will be dominated by unscrupulous multinationals and the local producers of tomatoes, pork and dog sausages will long ago have hanged themselves in poverty.
God, I’m sick of Polish people going on about Polish bread. You’d think it could cure death at the very least. Here’s the lowdown: Polish bread is different from other European breads because it conforms to a recipe that was dictated by decades of shortages and rationing. It’s not better, it’s just what you’re used to. Go eat a genuine French baguette or an Italian ciabatta and then tell me there is something special about Polish bread that doesn’t just refer to it’s uncanny resemblance to warmed cement.
Polish bread—building material of the future?
To make kotlet schabowy take a perfectly good piece of pork, beat it with a large wooden hammer until it resembles a road-accident victim and then coat it in egg, spices and flour so that you can’t taste the pork any more. As long as your customers like the taste of seasoned fried egg and flour you can’t fail—there might as well be soundly beaten bits of shoe in there and, in many cases, there probably are.
Gołąbki is the most sophisticated and tasty Polish food I’ve come across, and I’m convinced it’s not really Polish. It hasn’t got any pork in it for a start—Polish cuisine is largely pork-based, to an extent that begins to look like and anti-Jewish conspiracy. It also has rice, which is about as common as tiger-loin in the typical Polish kitchen. Of course, I may be completely wrong about this—kasza and pork would do just as well as rice and tiger.
Google image search does not understand ‘gołąbki’
Please add your recommendations for the most bizarre/typical foods in Poland in the comments—powers greater than us are awaiting an answer.
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I fell down rather badly in this piece with my Polish spelling. I have now replaced ‘gołębki’ with ‘gołąbki’ and ‘kasia’ with ‘kasza.’ It was late, I was tired and emotional, I have no other excuses.