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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » December 30, 2010
Grüne Woche Messe/Green Week Fair
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From the Editor
December 30, 2010   
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If you want to get to know a foreign country better, it is a good idea to start with a local marketplace. When you see piles of colorful vegetables and fruit, plucked poultry from small private farms, when you smell dill and cucumbers, you may very well be in Poland. Marketplaces in even the smallest Polish towns are stocked with just about everything you need to prepare a delicious and healthy meal.

The image of Poles that emerges from historical sources is that of feast-loving people who spared no expense to treat their guests and themselves to good food. While this bears testimony to traditional Polish hospitality, it could not have been good for our ancestors’ health. Even though these days people in Poland tend to count calories, make sure they eat natural and healthy products, avoid chemical preservatives, flavor enhancers, dyes and other additives, they still like to have a good, filling meal.

There are plenty of traditional Polish dishes around and probably even more new ones, adapted to the changing market and available ingredients. Polish people eat dishes inspired by Italian, Spanish and French cuisine. In the 16th century, Polish cuisine abounded in Italian products and ingredients, succeeded by French ones in the 18th century. Polish cuisine is heavily influenced by German cuisine, with a lot of Russian touches in eastern Poland and Hungarian in the south. It also takes generously from Jewish cuisine.

Polish cuisine is open to the world, featuring lots of characteristic dishes and ingredients. Other nations must be fond of it as well, judging by the crowds lining up in front of Polish stalls at various international trade fairs and exhibitions and waiting to try Polish specialties.

People in Poland also know how to turn good and healthy food into a profitable business. The agricultural sector accounts for around 5 percent of the country’s GDP, while the EU average is under 2 percent. Around 60 percent of the country’s area is cultivated and in this respect Poland is only outdone by France and Spain. Farmland occupies millions of hectares here and guarantees that fast food will not dominate the nation’s culinary imagination. A Pole might eat a hamburger every now and then, but genuine affection is reserved for more sophisticated dishes that will satisfy your taste buds and bring back fond memories. Such dishes are like the famous madeleines in Marcel Proust’s novel. By the way, one source claims madeleines are of Polish origin.

Zofia Szelińska
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