As a first Christmas which I spend without my family, in a foreign country and different traditions, I have to admit it was indeed not what I expected. It seems with the time I am getting more sentimental regarding family holidays – feeling provoked by the distance, I am sure.
However, there is something that appeared to be constantly present, something that transcends time and space when we talk about Christmas. The food.
All the lovely dishes, ginger cookies and various cakes, together with special teas, holidays a bit tired smiles – all of them a secret of an old home recipe – are coming to you with the question:
Aren’t you hungry?
The sweetness in the intonation gently unwrap the only possible answer which is different variations of “yes” with “Why not?” and “I will only try it” as alternative to “no”. The first tale started in the early December with Pierniki. Pierniki is the typical ginger bread we all know in one way or another.
However, the Polish spirit in it gives some Eastern (ooops:)) flavour which definitely warm you up more than the dry Western ones. My first ginger cookies were prepared by pupils in the Waldorf kindergarten. Later on most of the people were offering pierniki together with any other dish. I saw all possible forms, including quite big red deer and Christmas tree.
It is not surprising this fuss around the ginger bread. The city of Toruń in Northern Poland is specializing with its preparation since Middle ages and conquered many palates – including Chopin’s. Some urban myth around says the dough needs to wait for a year otherwise could be poisonous. Here is the harmless home recipe.
Another miracle on the Polish table is makowiec. This is typical poppy seed cake which may differ according to the personal taste. There is really a loooot of poppy seeds in it. At first, I didn’t like the taste, it is too intensive and too heavy but after the second bite I changed my mind. A must in the preparation is that the poppy seed layer should be at least twice as bigger as the dough layer. The best poppy seed cake this season I tried at the office – no one else was eating poppy seeds, so I had to be nice colleague and take care after the big peace prepared with colleague love and care.
My last choice for sharing is the red borscht – beetroot soup. It is probably the most typical dish for the Christmas eve table. It is served with little dumplings called “uszka” which in Polish means “little ears”. Well, I had my borscht with the default pierogi cause uszka were with meat. But again was so tasty and warming up! When I visited the family of a friend, they traditionally offered it as a first dish. I had to use my Polish skills on this dinner. Nothing unties the tong like hot winter soup prepared by hospitable hosts.
Usually on Polish Christmas table there are 12 dishes among which are few with carp – something that I like as well. Although on our table the tradition was absent, neither 12 Polish, neither 7 Bulgarian dishes, I enjoyed the Holidays. But in order to enjoy it more and prove one more cliche in this life, next year I plan to be at home.
The nostalgia for urban life opened my senses for Łódż – the most living city I have experienced for a long time! There is some magic in the urban swirl which makes you see details and feel big and small at the same time. I was so big, because I was there – at the party, at the vivid place, and I was so small, because I was one of the many who like to read Kundera, read Russian classics or enjoy sleepless weekends. My EVS friends in Łódż have the incredible chance to be part of such wonderful diverse city. They are creative enough to answer its demands and to challenge its inhabitans.
Ana and Virginia are from Spain. Both are doing their long term volunteering program here (EVS) and currently they try to survive the coming winter. (You can do it, girls!) They are also bravely fighting with Polish language, and I must admit, so far quite successfully. Recently both initiated a project – an invitation to plate of peanuts and life reflections. It is a great pleasure to talk about
Pación de Cacahuete.
Ana shared the beginning and some secretes from the kitchen accompanied d by Buena Vista Social club in cozy cafe in OFF Piotrkowska. It was one of those moments, somewhere between the evining, and the night, usually wating for its victims at some rock-ish urban corner. They were sharing some peanuts (here slightly skipping to mention what kind of liqueur the peanuts were accompanied by) and random thoughts about life were crossing the space. And then it happened.
“Pación” pronounced with Northern Spanish dialect, from were Ana is from, could be heard and understood as “grass” for the Southern parts. Their representative in this case is Virginia. Pación de cacahuete is a passion they found in common and decided to share it, keep it and grow it as a common project. Virjinia paints her thoughts on plates from peanuts and Ana describes them. You don’t speak Spanish? I can assure you that very basic knowledge is enough for experiencing the feeling they implemented in a certain peace because we all have been there. All of us are struggling on the same issues, same emotions and situations. Pación de cacahuete is simply an example for how we can dress up our inner worlds for bringing some aesthetics and inspiration to the world.
My wondering is inevitable – is this possible to happen in other place? Question that will never get its answer but once again I had the chance to dive into the magic of the living city. It is the density and serendipity of a big city, full with young seeking souls that makes such creativity possible! One can find partners in crime at each corner (even on a straight street ;)) and the dimension of time is not a question.
“We went out for a coffee at Friday afternoon and get back home at Sunday morning.”
The passion stays present. Sometimes comes on a big waves, sometimes on small drops, but it is present. Ana is putting the painted peanut plates on the wall at her room. There is a saying that the walls keep the memories, I believe this one will keep also the passion.
Here is the Facebook page – Pación de cacahuete
Here is Virginia blog where she share her projects (in Spanish) – http://virginiaentinta.blogspot.com/
cheers to the Living cities
where the space is cheering, regardless of the time
where “The Season” is each season and each moment not a dime
breathing in the Living cities
is exhaling of the smoke in a winter night
and the lungs are an exhibition, concert or rhetoric fight
streets at the Living cities
are never mapped, never easy and never straight lines
no streets but diagonals
to loose the self and a thousands selfs to find
cheers to the Living cities
nothing more to cheer about
have a drink, a poem, painting, or a song
and dream to Live through it out