Tag Archives: Barszcz czerwony

The Guardian does Poland

For the past four weeks, Britian’s The Guardian newspaper has run a series it has called New Europe. It has spent one week each analysing Germany, France, Spain and finally in the past week, Poland. The introduction to the series says “Who are our neighbours? Too often Europe is discussed and reported through its common institutions or purely in terms of its relations with Britain. Starting today, the Guardian’s Europe season looks in depth at four European countries – with a week exploring every aspect of their cultures, economies and day-to-day lives.”

As a further part of the lead-in, a survey was also completed in each of the four countries and in the United Kingdom and an overview of the results was presented. And finally, an interactive guide is shown giving information on all EU countries and how they compare in the areas of population, life expectancy, education levels, personal technology ownerships levels, and financial indicators such as cost of living and savings levels.

During the past week of Monday April 4th to Saturday April 9th, there have been many articles related to Poland specifically and they can all be found in the Poland sub-section of the New Europe featured area 0n the Guardian website. The majority of the articles also appeared in the print versions of the newspaper during the week. Below is a quick summary of some of the main articles and highlights from the week covering Poland.

Current Affairs, Politics and History

This section covers some of the articles covering topics such as:

A Jewish renaissance – which highlights efforts by Krakows Jewish Centre in particular in raising awareness.

The giant Swiebodzin Jesus – which of course raises a debate on religion and the Church’s influence in Poland.

Poland gets to grips with being normal – which of course raises a debate on religion and the Church’s influence in Poland.

Feminism in Poland – where the author gives some interesting examples of experiences with industry colleagues being condescending bordering on sexist.

Culture, Sport, the Arts & Entertainment

This section looks at how Poland is developing in terms of culture and other such areas.

Guardian Readers Tips – these include suggestions for cultural options and other highlights, including parts of Poland to visit outside of the urban areas.

How football hooliganism still haunts Poland – While this article does present the spectre of hooligans arranging ‘ustawki’ fights, there are also some other articles highlighting positives that Euro 2012 will bring such as stadium building, infrastructure redevelopment and a podcast from Jonathan Wilson with interviews with Grzegorz Lato and Lech Wałęsa where the hope is that hosting Euro 2012 will help to increase Polands self-confidence as a country.

Seamus Heaney on Czesław Miłosz – with the poem ‘The World’ written in 1943 being a personal favourite of his

Travel & Tourism

This section highlights some of the features presenting Poland cities and other locations and what is worth seeing, including

Top ten Warsaw hotels to consider – these range from Le Meridien Bristol and the Rialto, to a hotel not even yet open – the Old Embassy – which is based in the former Soviet Embassy and not scheduled to open until September.

The locals guide to Kraków and Warsaw – with tips on places that you won’t necessarily find in the regular guide books

Kraków vs. Warsaw – a few more shots are fired in the never-ending debate of which of Polands two main cities can claim to be the best. With a notable appearance from our own Jamie Stokes (also representing the Krakow Post), as he battles with Dana Dramowicz of the Warsaw Life publication. They verbally spar to win the hearts and minds of those not yet decided on the subject.

Top trips in Poland – including Lancut castle, walking in the Karkonosze mountains and taking a steam train in Wolsztyn.

Food and Drink

This culinary section aims to present a taste of Poland, notably:

Guardian Readers Tips – these include suggestions for cafés, restaurants and bars in the main cities in Poland

How to cook perfect borscht (barszcz) – which also includes some free geo-political comments as a discussion builds over who has the best claim to ‘own’ the recipe

A pierogi recipe – or Polish ravioli as it is described on the webpage.

A recipe for roast duck with apples – with a suggestion to try with a dry red wine.

A gołąbki recipe – Suggested as being similar to the recipe of the babcia of the author


To summarise, the series overall is aimed at increasing knowledge of other European powers for British readers. The series (and articles on Poland) work fairly well in that regard as many pieces of information are presented that would not be known without regular exposure to Poland or Polish culture. However a disappointing recurrence was how the majority of articles were not written by Poles. This lead to some inaccuracies in information presented (often quickly pointed out) and also lead to a ‘parachute’ feeling – where it felt like the author was dropped into Poland for a few days – the article on the Polish family even mentioned how the author just landed with them for a few days, as opposed to presenting the views directly from the family.

Another feature seemed to be some articles being presented (perhaps deliberately) in a way to induce as many comments as possible on the web version of the article. The pieces on ‘Debunking Myths’ in particular seemed to rouse those commenters who shout loudest to say “Poles go home”, “Poles are lazy” and “Dey tuk ar jabs”. Ironically it seemed that bringing out these elements went against the Guardian’s message of getting to know the other countries and cultures.

Overall, it was a good series, but a suggestion for improvement would have been to have less articles (perhaps 20 or 25 instead of the 67 Poland-related ones) which could go into more detail and ensure accuracy of information and present more real views. Some articles felt too short to provide anything more than a discussion starting device which tended to decend into extremer viewpoints being aired.

All images are from the Guardian interactive guide to the EU countries with the original source data coming from the Economist.

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Barszcz czerwony, Borshch, Borscht

The soup that most people associate with this part of the world is barszcz, or borshch if you want a screwed-up English spelling. The assumption is that this is always a red, beetroot, soup and comes from Russia. Of course, we know that there are in fact two main types, red & white and that the red type originates in………..Poland? According to this interesting, in a passing kind of way, article, red barszcz started out in Ukraine and then spread to all Slavic lands. Would any of our Polish readers disagree with that, I wonder?

Personally, I’m a huge fan of the white stuff which is very similar to a good żurek and in my limited experience comes as the liquid with floating bits of white kielbasa (and possibly egg?). I’m certain the recipe varies from place to place. If I recall correctly, Easter is the main occasion for white barszcz so not long to wait.

As for the red stuff, I can take it or leave it. For me, doing anything to a beetroot other than pickling it is to take it well outside its comfort zone and to heat it up is, well, strange. So this is a difficult country for me when hot beetroot is served up so often either as czerwony barszcz or as a hot vegetable with many meat-based meals. All the more difficult when everyone around me is waxing lyrical about whether the beets served up today are good, bad, indifferent and showing great interest in the recipes. The best thing you can do with red barszcz is to nuke it with as many spices and floaty bits as you can get away with without annoying the barszcz-police such that it becomes as far away from beetroots+water+heat as you can get. I think the sour cream helps a lot but I’ve not often had that served up with it here. It is often served here with uszka, dumplings (more or less), floating in it. Alternatively, you can get a cup of it and drink this while munching on a krokiet, sort of pastry-like thing.

Almost forgot. What is nice, in the summer, is the cold beetroot soup who’s name escapes me in Polish but it begins with “L”, I think? (EDIT – Thanks to Darth – the name is chłodnik – not an L in sight!). Poland’s own gazpacho. I have very little idea how this is made but it uses the green parts of the beet as well as the tuber. It resembles muddy pond water after a herd of buffalo have marched through leaving grassy bits floating around but it tastes really good. Most Poles I know, don’t like it. According to Wiki article linked to above, this is “Mostly Lithuanian”, well, it was all the same commonwealth once upon a time.

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