Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thank Goodness for the Fall of Communism, ???

 In 2013, I read an article in the Economist. It said that a nation's cuisine can  provides a chronology of its sociocultural history. They declared as an example, Poland, for instance as being a good example. The 40 years of communism Poland endured by Poles changed their food consumption. Communism tried to do to the national cuisine what it did to so much else and reduced it to the lowest common denominator: uniform and bland stodge characterized by poor ingredients, low standards and low expectations. So, in this respect, thank goodness for the fall of communism.
In the 12 years I spent living there, I can tell you that in the heart of Poles, their favorite homemade dishes were not forgotten. It was proved when in the early years of post communism, western fast food and processed foods could not enter the market simply because Polish women would not buy it. They wanted to cook again, to taste again. In the years that followed communism one enthusiastic chef at one of Warsaw's five-star hotels talked about  how he wanted to bring "proper" Polish food, not just to foreign guests but also to Poles. He said, "to find real Polish food you have to look at pre-war cookbooks," he said. In those books, he explained, you realize that Polish food was deeply regional, and what passed for a meat cutlet, for example, in one region was completely different elsewhere".
Thankfully and maybe to some surprisingly that even though Poland experienced the Western fast food invasion and big box stores, a generation of younger Poles has been breathing new life into Polish food, dusting down old and long-forgotten recipes, and happily blowing away the almost nationalistic conservatism that surrounded food by introducing new ingredients and cooking styles.
There is a food revolution now gripping Poland. One finds cooks, both professional and amateur, who have traveled, seen what the world has to offer on a plate and discovered what is both right and wrong with Polish food. Because of that, and mostly because of the long gone communism, Poland now has an army of farmers and small food producers bringing original and, very often, organic produce to the table.
Not so long ago cheese in Poland was either żółty or biały (literally yellow or white) and that was pretty much it. Now a trip to one of the growing number of farmers' markets in the country will confront a shopper with a huge choice of locally produced cheese. At the same time the average Pole is becoming more discerning in their taste, able to buy better quality produce and also eager to break away from the refectory-standard food that dominated Polish cuisine for decades. This has resulted in a plethora of new Polish cookbooks being published. Even Anne Applebaum, an acclaimed historian and the wife of Radek Sikorski, the Polish foreign minister, has written her own volume of Polish recipes.
Ironically, the good aspect of communism is that a lot of Polish farmland today can be categorized as organic having no chance during communism to be polluted by harsh fertilizer or soil erosion by years of cultivating with heavy machinery.

 *a blend of my experiences in Poland along with views taken from the observations of the Economist author

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Grazing in Poland Applies to Animals

Grazing in the US means snacking all day long. While in Poland applies to animals only. Eating is still seen as a celebration there, a time for family to come together and share a meal. I learned how to cook and eat in eastern Europe. Though variety of food was limited even in the late 90's and early 2000s, Polish families dined on soups, potatoes and pork, and plenty of sausages (dried and smoked). My favorite Polish mom - Ania Bieniecka was and still is a great homemaker and cook. She could come home after a full day of work and whip up a three course dinner in nothing flat. Soup was the starter and then the main meal of meat and potatoes and a vegetable side and lastly a simple fruit dessert. Everyone in the family looked forward to her meals, it reflected her love and her forgiveness. Why forgiveness? Because, 'the family' is the 'greedy institution' as social scientist Lewis Coser's put it. Its members demand much of the mother. Yet, from my many years of observations, the Polish mother is wise social member dutifully brings her children 'her flock' back to the table = the family.
Unfortunately, this is not the 'culture' or social practice in America... or at least not any longer. Grazing in the US means snacking all day long and is even touted as a way to live nutritionally. I don't doubt that one can find nutirional snacks and one could make the argument that a person could live off such snacks. However, as a sociologist, what about the social aspect of eating. Society needs families. In fact, families that compose society are the backbone of any society. One can make the argument that a family is a group of people and any group of people could come together to snack and hence family grazing. Perhaps, but grazing suggests individual eating and grazing also suggests flexibility concerning individual eating times/places.  I would not call grazing with 'strangers' at the snack court = family time. 
In my opinion, this is just another strategy of the far left progressive agenda. Most Americans are being fed the 'grazer' mentality as if it is better for people 'you'. The grazer eats little tid-bits throughout the day.  Effectually, what the grazer lifestyle does is break down the family and create individuals grazing herds on the plain of big government. It causes people to detach from old traditions, detach from each other culturally and from any shared socio-historical politics. It allows Big Gov to feed people on less while making them more dependent.

Animals graze in Poland, and its people eat well with their family.