Tag Archives: Christmas

The Christmas Clash: Carp vs. Turkey!

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the show-down you have all been waiting for. The Christmas Cracker, the face-off between the Polish Christmas special, carp, and the Anglo-phonic favourite, turkey!

In the blue corner. the pride of Poland, the carp. Weighing in at 18 pounds (8 kilos), he doesn’t pack a big punch, but is a slippery customer and can wriggle his way out of trouble more often than not. In the red corner, we have the Western wonder, the turkey. Also weighing in at an of average 18 pounds, this means it’s going to be a closely fought contest. With 5 categories to fight for, we must have a winner today – so let’s get ready to cook up a feast!

Freshness

Ding, ding, and the bell goes for round one. The two competitors are swinging hard, but the carp looks to have the upper hand (surely ‘fin’–ed.) early on. This round focuses on the freshness of the competitors. The carp traditionally has been kept fresh for as long as possible, with the fishy fighter being given the chance to maintain that ‘just-caught’ look. Thus pride of place in the bathroom is afforded to it, with it’s own private pool given in the bath. Meanwhile, the turkey tends to require freezing, and in reverse thawing takes most of Christmas Eve in order to be ready to cook for the Christmas meal. This round goes to the carp, as the turkey waddles back to his corner already battle weary.

“It looks fresh, but will I really want to eat it?”

Carp:1

Turkey:0

Presentation

However, it looks like the break has done wonders for the turkey and he’s back out ready to take on the carp again. The turkey has got his friends the chicken and the goose in his corner and they have been psyching him up for the second round, with presentation being the battle-ground. The carp is looking somewhat nervous, and rightly so. The turkey has come out with an all over golden brown colour and and strong shine. On the opposing side, the carp has entered in a batter covering. But wait… what’s this? Oh, bad news for the carp – there are some fish-bones sticking out of the side, and the judges are not going to look favourably on that. The turkey has taken the second round easily.

“Salivating yet?”

Carp:1

Turkey:1

Taste

The taste test follows rapidly, and the carp looks like the setback in the last round is still preying on his mind. He is first to be tasted, but the fish is flat and a bit lifeless. The turkey meanwhile, has laid on quite a feast, with a number of options to tickle any palate. There’s white meat, dark meat, breast, leg and thigh and with the final accompanying touch of gravy over the top, the turkey is on a roll and has won two rounds in a row.

“Are you a leg or a breast man?”

Carp:1

Turkey:2

Religious Adherence

With the possibility of winning the clash here, the turkey is understandably confident and is walking with quiet a swagger. However, all can change, as we approach the carp’s speciality round – religious adherence. In a country such as Poland, this was always going to be a decisive round, as any food involved in celebrating a religious holiday should naturally fall in line with the guidelines for most holy reckoning. Even as a ‘white meat’, the turkey was never going to have much opportunity here, and he retires early in order to prepare for the final, decisive round of the competition.

Jesus was a fish, as well as Lamb of God. Meat is devil food… on Fridays, and religious holidays at least.

Carp:2

Turkey:2

Adaptability

And so we move onto the final round and with the scores tied at 2 rounds apiece. This makes for an exciting finale. This round will consider the adaptability of the two competitors to see how they can fit into the Christmas celebration as a whole. As food tends to play such an important part in the holiday season, you want your best cuisine to represent itself well. Carp has made a good showing here, it can be used as part of the main meal of Christmas, and can be considered to even feature as part of a fish starter or as an ingredient in a chowder or similar fish soup. However, the turkey comes out strong, and starts swinging. First off is the main Christmas meal, then it follows up with the possibility of re-use with the meal on the second day of Christmas, should a big enough turkey be used. And finally with the knockout blow, it launches it’s special weapon – leftovers! With potential for over 180 leftover recipes, including sandwiches, soups and stews, the turkey has won this round, and the clash overall. The level of adaptability shown has made it a winner overall, but only after a hard-fought battle.

December 25th, 8.00pm: “Anyone fancy a turkey sandwich?”

Carp:2

Turkey:3

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New Polish Christmas Traditions

Poland has learned a lot from its open contact with Britain over the past 20 years. For example, it has learned that Britain features less gold paving in metropolitan areas than it might have been led to believe. Poland has also started to pick up some bad habits, especially when it comes to Christmas. The British Christmas is very nice in itself but there is an awful lot of whining, hand-wringing and general grumbling that accompanies it. One of the advantages of being a Brit living in Poland has always been that one can avoid the whole sordid build-up to Christmas and simply parachute in at the last minute for the good bit. Watching the news this December I’ve had to keep reminding myself where I am.

Being caught out by the weather

We rarely have extreme weather in the UK. In fact that’s not true, we regularly have extreme weather but it’s never predictable. It’s a rare year when we don’t have a tornado or six feet of snow in June or two days of Saharan dust storms or something else absurdly unlikely in some equally unlikely corner of the country. The traditional British response to this is to close everything, especially vital public services, and go to the pub. Television cameras then swoop in and interview people demonstrating the Dunkirk, or possibly the Blitz, spirit. This consists of making blindingly obvious statements such as: “It’s very cold / wet / windy and it’s causing me a great deal of inconvenience” often while standing in the smoking and/or drowned ruins of your house.

Tornado in Britain

Aftermath of the Birmingham tornado featuring confused firefighters wondering exactly why they’ve been called to a building that isn’t on fire

Until recently Poles gave every impression of being relatively unsurprised by the onset of snow and freezing temperatures in winter but some kind of seasonal amnesia seems to have set in. Every time I turn on the television recently a reporter is standing next to a road packed with drivers who have simply freaked out at the appearance of powdery white stuff falling from the heavens. Cars are upside down, articulated lorries are dangling from trees, and buses are wedged into small buildings. “We didn’t know what was going on,” wail the victims, “suddenly this icy white substance that we’ve never seen before in our lives in the last six months was all over the road!”

Everything is made in China

This is, in fact, true. Everything really is made in China, including those little “Made in Poland” labels. The rest of the world gave up making anything of interest decades ago, but Poland only now seems to be catching on to this. When I was a lad everything was made in Taiwan, which is a little tiny version of China located in the South China Sea right next to China. Kind of weird when you think about it.

The thrust of the report I saw on the news last night was that Polish toy manufacturers are upset at the number of toys being imported from China. There was footage of Chinese toy robots that can read your brain waves being paraded up and down glittering catwalks by scantily clad Chinese bikini models and some other footage of grumpy looking Polish men hammering wooden dogs together. If I was a Polish lad I know where my interests would lie. Robots that can read your brain waves are, in themselves, considerably cooler than wooden dogs and the fact that they have been seen in the vicinity of exotic bikini models only adds to their appeal.

china_robot_girl

Stiff competition for manufacturers of wooden dogs

Complaining that everything is made in China is another British Christmas tradition that has caught on here. In fact Britain has given up complaining about this and embraced the phenomenon wholeheartedly. Last year, or possibly the year before, there was a big story in the British media about “the ship bringing Christmas.” Apparently there was one giant cargo ship on its way from China carrying so many of the gifts we would end up giving to each other, the decorations we would be putting up, and the equipment we would be using to cook our Christmas dinners that it was, essentially, carrying Britain’s Christmas. It was a kind of giant nautical Santa Clause. The touching thing was that nobody seemed to mind, they were ever rooting for it a little bit. My advice to Poland: stop trying to make things, everybody else gave up years ago.

“Christmas gets earlier every year…”

Suddenly everyone is keen to tell me that when they were a lad or lass Christmas in Poland began on the 24th of December and there wasn’t a trace of a twinkling light or a glint of tinsel to be seen before that date. Everyone was far too busy queueing for bread and being bitingly satirical about communism back then. In other words everyone in Poland suddenly became my grandparents, except for the communism part obviously. Complaining about the commercialization of Christmas is an age-old tradition in the UK. If anything it’s the complaining about the commercialization rather than the onset of the commercialization itself that seems to get earlier every year. Early indications are that this particular trend has exported itself even more effectively than swine flu.

bread queue

A British bread queue: most people are thinking “Thank god we don’t live in communist Poland.”

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Polish Christmas gift ideas

Apologies for the misleading title since there aren’t any real ideas in this post at all. It’s a shallow and transparent attempt to draw in innocent readers and subject them to my feeble rantings on the subject of Christmas shopping. Also I read “100 top post ideas for your blog” and this was near the top.

For the Polish woman in your life

One of the leading arguments against the existence of a benevolent god is the fact that women like nice clothes and bags while the two things men are incapable of buying are nice clothes and bags. It’s not just that we are fundamentally bad at identifying nice clothes and bags it’s the fact that we would have to poke around in women’s clothing stores for long periods of time in order to do so, a prospect that fills most men with the kind of horror experienced by claustrophobics at matchbox conventions. They also like leather boots but I think we can all see the dangers and difficulties associated with hanging out in the ladies boot section of your local shoe shop.

FashionableHandbag

It’s definitely a bag, but as to its fitness as a gift I confess myself clueless

One of the leading arguments for the existence of a benevolent, if slightly warped, god is jewelry. An entire global industry has been developed to create objects that are almost guaranteed to get a good reception. Women can then put these objects in a drawer until they have the right clothes and bag to go with them.

For the Folks back home

Families back in the UK or the States or whichever non-Polish benighted hell hole you happen to come from tend to assume they will receive exotic and interesting Polish gifts from you. Once you’ve brought that Polish crockery with the blue dots on it, a pair of fleecy mountain slippers for the entire family, and one or two bits of amber, however, you’ve pretty much exhausted the well of Polish exoticness. After that it’s vodka and increasingly obscure Polish films on DVD until you just give up entirely and start doing your Christmas shopping at the airport.

polish pottery

This stuff. We’ve all been guilty.

Poland now has the wealth of consumer goods it always dreamed of, but the choice is frustratingly one dimensional. Look in any shopping center and you’ll see 900 shops selling essentially the same clothes, electronics, DVDs, Swedish furniture, and day-to-day fripperies. Almost none of it is Polish made or has any kind of Polish character. I challenge you to name one Polish brand that produces something unique (apart from food, because that’s tricky to wrap).

jew with the stick

Polish ‘folk art’. There are so many things wrong with this I don’t know where to start.

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