Sushi anyone?

Posted on 10. Mar, 2012 by in cooking, Countries, Culture, food, Places to visit, travel

Sushi is popular in Poland’s urban centers. Seriously popular. An informal study of Warsaw magazines reveals that about 12% of all the city’s restaurants sell it – and even then you probably want to book a table on a Friday night to make sure you get some.

It seems that to Varsovians (Warszawiacy), sushi says modernity (nowoczesność), taste (smak, gust), and fashion (moda). It’s also one of the more expensive foods you can eat – though really that’s an encouraging sign. Who wants to eat cheap raw fish? So it’s a sign of wealth (bogactwo) and success (sukces). It’s the food of business deals, of cash rich calorie-reluctant lunching ladies, of trendy about-town urbanites who scoff at their old-fashioned mothers recoiling in horror at the thought of eating uncooked, slimy fish flesh.

Sushi is ‘vinegared’ rice topped with other ingredients – fish (ryby), seafood (owoce morza) or vegetables (warzywa) being the most common, but as in America, home to the California roll, here in Poland sushi has been adapted to cater to some more local tastes. Smoked mackerel (wędzona makrela) sushi is a popular choice, eel (węgorz) with gherkin (korniszon) packs a tangy if utterly inauthentic punch, and rice stained ‘Barbie purple with beetroot juice’ is a common sight. Anathema in Japan, but popular with most western sushi eaters, the calorific Philadelphia or mayonnaise rolls with deep fried battered prawns (krewetki) or fish (ryba) and extra avocado(awokado) are big sellers.

It’s a long way from sushi’s origins back in 17th century Japan, when Hahaya Yohei created a delicious roadside finger food by marinating fish in vinegar and selling it in strips or on a damp cushion of rice. The acid breaks down the fats in the fish, fermenting it slightly and creating one of the five basic tastes identified by Japanese cooking, ‘umami’, defined as a taste sensation that is meaty or savory.

‘Umami’ sounds terribly Eastern and exotic, but in fact it has always been a part of Polish cooking, more so than in other European cuisines. Żurek, a popular broth, gets its umami taste from the fermented rye flour, and bigos, Poland’s national dish of hearty meat stew, gets it from the fermented cabbage, the naturally occurring nucleotides in the mushrooms and the cured sausage – curing increases the glutamate content. The precise minimalist aesthetic of sushi might be a million miles away from this warming hearty food, but the basic meaty-sour taste is not.

And Poland has always appreciated fish dishes, again with an emphasis on curing, brining and smoking – all increasing the umami taste. Strips of herring (śledź) or sprat (szprot) fillets lightly brined with allspice, mustard seed and bay has the slippery-fresh rawness of sushi, albeit distinctly Polishflavoured, and it’s been a traditional part of Polish cooking for centuries, making Poland ripe for a sushi invasion.

For all its popularity, and despite normalising ‘make your own’ sushi classes, sushi just isn’t normal everyday food. It has a taste of the exotic, the rarefied and the precious about it. It is food with presence, food that has cache. It’s thrilling to watch highly-trained Japanese chefs and their Polish disciples cleaver-ing up fish and creating our dinner before our very eyes. It’s gratifyingly novel and space age to select little dishes from a moving conveyor belt. It’s glamorous to click lacquered chop sticks (pałeczki do jedzenia) against porcelain bowls, spectacular to have food brought to the table on a giant wooden junk. It’s rewarding to master the art of using delicate chopsticks with grace (wdzięk) and panache (ostentacja). The joy of sushi isn’t simply the food; it’s the style as well. And as a modern and cosmopolitan city (kosmopolityczne miasto), Warsaw is the perfect place to eat sushi in – and with – style.

There are some great sushi restaurants not only in Warsaw, but other (mostly big) Polish cities. It is not quite exactly the same sushi as the one I’m used to in Maine. But overall great new experience!

I would recommend Sakana restaurant in Warsaw (Moliera 4/6 St) and So-An (Koszykowa 54 St).

Do następnego razu… (Till next time…)

Apply for your visa early!

Posted on 09. Mar, 2012 by in Countries, Current News, Places to visit, Regulations, travel

Football fans who plan on travelling to Poland for EURO 2012 and require entry visas are entitled to file their visa applications from March 8th 2012!

Although there are still three months to go until EURO 2012 kicks off, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs encourages all football fans who need visas to come to Poland to submit the relevant documents in advance.

This is possible pursuant to the regulations of the Community Code on Visas, which states that a visa application may be submitted no earlier than three months prior to the commencement of the planned visit.

Due to the early opening of visa procedures, football fans will avoid queues and will be able to plan their stay in Poland well ahead. All visa applications must be registered electronically via the website www.e-konsulat.gov.pl.

Please be informed that visa applications may be submitted in the consular offices of the Republic of Poland.

The MFA also warns against fraudulent visa brokers who may offer their services in connection with the growing interest in trips to Poland.

visa – wiza

application – aplikacja, wniosek

to file – złożyć wniosek, aplikację

documents – dokumenty

commencement- rozpoczęcie

fraudulent visa brokers – fałszywi pośrednicy wizowi

trip – podróż, wycieczka, wyjazd

arrangements - przygotowania

Do następnego razu… (Till next time…)

Happy Women’s Day!

Posted on 08. Mar, 2012 by in Calendar, Culture, Current News, History, Holidays

Today is International Women’s Day (Międzynarodowy Dzień Kobiet) , the day to celebrate the economic, political and social achievements of women and spread awareness of remaining and future challenges.

In Poland Międzynarodowy Dzień Kobiet was celebrated as long as I remember. I always thought that women have their day everywhere around the world – at least once a year, just on the 8th of March! Later, I realized that this was not a case and in many countries this day is not observed. Either women there have their feast the whole year or no any day at all!

International Women’s Day became celebrated in Poland after War World II. It was arbitrary imposed from Soviet Union’s tradition. It was first implemented in 1948 replacing a day of blessed Wincenty Kadłubek in Polish calendar. The Women’s Day in Soviet Union is a day free from work for everybody, not just the women. Although initially this feast was enforced by the government, it became accepted by the Polish society and it became a part of Polish culture.

Below is some history of Women’s Day in Poland:

✿ Since 1948 until 1956 when Soviet Union abolished officially Stalin policies (polityka Stalina) this day was a final day of communistic competition for women. Polish women were undertaking the resolutions to exceed their working norms. They were expected to show a record of excellent work and a superb production results to their communistic supervisors. Polish newspapers were wishing women – excellent work efficiency. The portraits of women as work champions were hung on the walls of the factories through February and March.

✿ With the fall of the Stalinism (wraz z upadkiem stalinizmu) – the government and the mass media started noticing that women are mothers, housewives and that they also have beauty. Although the government and newspapers still try to convince Polish women that the most important is their role to built a socialistic future – mass media and political communistic figures also wish women a personal happiness.

✿ In the 70-es (w latach 70-tych) finally this day was accepted commonly in the society. Now it had two aspects – the official one and the unofficial – private. Sometimes these two aspects were intertwined. For instance at work and at schools official ceremonies took place, but also men were celebrating women coworkers and children were bringing flowers to their teachers who were predominantly women. Schoolboys often were giving flowers to schoolgirls from their class. This was the easy day at schools, no exams and homework was checked. The most popular gift goven to women – was a flower – usually carnation (goździk), sometimes rose (róża). So this day was really a paradise for florists!

✿ Late eighties (późne lata osiemdziesiąte) mark the dawn of the celebration of the Women’s Day. Here are the reasons. First of all the society wanted to abolish all the remnants of communism and this day – although not strictly connected with communism, was introduced by communists and as such – should go away. Besides, there was a strong tendency to adopt Western culture. Many people also realized that the simple fact that women have this one day in the year – puts them in the position of underprivileged and this need to be changed since women role in the society needs to be changed.

✿ Now (teraz), there is an attempt to revitalize this day. Many women just missed being treated differently and special at least this one time during the year – when men tried to be better husbands or sons – helping in the daily chores.

I hope all women will have a wonderful day today! Today and every other day of the year!

Mam nadzieję, że wszystkie kobiety będą miały dziś wspaniały dzień! Tak dziś jak i każdego innego dnia w roku! 

Do następnego razu… (Till next time…)