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Food and Polish Independence Day

11 Nov

I’ve had many memorable meals, from excellent Satay and Nasi Goreng in Indonesia to unmentionable Fish and Chips in a chippy in North London, where the chips probably were two days old. They weren’t just swimming in grease, they were sliding, diving and crawling through it. I’ve had excellent Steak and Ale Pie in Norfolk and an unusually horrible meal in Italy, in a trattoria in Palermo. The  chef came out of the kitchen and told us we were insulting his professionalism when we complained. My wife was poisoned by a red mullet once in a place in Greece that should have known better, and where the menu read: Squib in Tomatoes. I advise anyone if they should ever dine at a taverna in Greece and read that squib is on  the menu they should leave the establishment at once. On the other hand, there is another place in Greece close by to the offending one which served simply wonderful Stuffed Aubergines, and Beef in Lemon Sauce, while its wine from the barrel was not first class.  Wine from the barrel at an excellent trattoria in Agrigento in Sicily  accompanied my and my companions’ visit to the Valley of the Temples, where we poured libations to the gods at every temple we visited. I invented some poetic lines (read: doggerel) before every offering.

I will never forget the first meal I had in the Czech republic, which was in a pub-restaurant round the corner from the language school I was about to work in. For starters, they watered down the beer, so that some of the boozers who basically hung around all day would not become tired and emotional.  I actually saw the manager of the place shoving a hose in to an open barrel and switching the tap on from a discreet wall at the back of the building to help the beer go further. If you could bear the watered down beer, the meals there were perfectly acceptable, and cheap as well.

I can never forget some of the Turkish food I tried in Istanbul, Ayvalik, and Pergamon.

As already mentioned elsewhere in this blog, I like Polish food. Today I tried some goose cooked in the style of the 1920s. A local hotel had decided to organise an exhibition of soap and soap products from the 1920s to the present day, a cabaret,  and a detective murder mystery game. This explained why there were some people mysteriously dressed as Polish Counts and Countesses who have found themsleves in a Agatha Chritie novel of the 1930s. The screen above the bar was playing a montage of early Polish commercial films with 20s and 30s music. The reason why we were here though was to try their Obiad Marszalowski , a reward for us after we had watched the Polish Independence Day parade.

Today was a holiday and it was a sunny, if not especially warm day. Normally, we would have gone somewhere else, say Gdynia or Poznan, but I had a strong cold, so we decided to stay here. My wife and I were on our way down to the festivities when we were accosted by a lady who wanted us to help her put her Polish flag up outside her house. In fact she had already got someone to do this; instead of this,  she was keen to point out that Poland had endured 150 years under the domination of other countries at various points.  She basically wanted a chat.  After saying goodbye, we ventured on and got to the Market Square.

 A large crowd of people had all gathered in  anticipation of the military parade that was about to take place.  A group of pigeons hung around the old pistachio building on one side of the square, perching on the balustrades as if also looking forward to the parade, with their fine view of the proceedings. Children rushed around in the middle of the cobbled street, sensing the excitement.  The weather was just warm enough for people to hang around and wait for the events without stamping their feet. The military band, their blue berets like coloured rocks in a sea of people, were  waiting like the crowd. They were more stoical than their civilian counterparts. A police whistle blew somewhere, but nothing happened.

The professional photographers and TV people started to move, an indication that something was about to happen. Standard bearers appeared at the back. Suddenly, the wind cooled.  The military band struck up.  Following the band and its jaunty tunes, and the fluttering flags of the standard bearers,  a lot of local Top Brass, veterans, the police,  various officials, Boy Scout-Girl Guide groups, the mayor and his henchmen. Bringing up the rear were the local football team supporters, today looking far less hooligan – like than their reputation would suggest, and a group of people who held a very long strip with the Polish flag imprinted on it.

The crowd followed the band up to the classic-vintage car show parked on the pavements, and after admiring the cars, we went in for our goose. The dish, cooked according to a 1920s Polish recipe, was made with a mustard sauce and was rather good, though perhaps a little on the rich side.   

Though it was a good meal, it was really the occasion here that made the meal memorable.