Sunday, July 25, 2010

Golden terraces or shiny lumpy bits?

In the middle of Warsaw there is the Palace of Kulture and Science. It is certainly easy to find, as it is the tallest building in Warsaw. Just next to this monster of Russian Architecture is Zlote Tarasy which is a shopping centre. "Oh how exciting!" I hear you say sarcastically. Yes, Poland, and specifically Warsaw, has many many such centres. The big difference here is the architecture is actually magnificent and a pleasure to observe.

I really love this place, not so much to be inside, but to look at. It makes me feel a little like being in a fancy museum, futuristic world or some lunarscape. Maybe this shopping precinct is why Science Fiction is so popular in Poland....









It is interesting in the reflections that it brings too, as having multiple panes allows the distortion of figures around it. Unfortunately, many people think the problem with these panes is that even they can't make the Palace of Kulture and the Warszawa Centralna (Central Train Station) look attractive.






Where as for me it brings memories of the Sydney Opera House... Can you see it? Or am I just going nuts?











Overall, I really enjoy the random light that it casts in different ways at differing angles to make people seem slightly more tolerable.












I like how it can loom over the place, looking like an avalanche or maybe a glacier poking its head between the buildings.

Either way, I think that more buildings should be designed to look like other things. You need to set office workers minds into creative spins somehow. Let's face it making them wear suits and sensible clothes won't help!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Pride

Poland, as a whole and of course this is only my opinion, is a very conservative country. It is what I would call a Catholic state, much the way Islamic states are. Law, Education and Government are all influenced by the church. It is not really for me to judge, but I think if they were to tax the church as a business and allow donations to be taxed and claimed as in giving to charity it would benefit this country a huge amount. The money tied up in the church is insane. The size of churches in the most expensive towns just makes me wonder how better the money could be spent. Ok, Ok I refuse to rant.

So onto the great topic of Europride. Which is an annual street parade to educate people about Liberty, Equality and Tolerance in relation to Homosexuals. That said, to me it isn't just about that, it is really about breaking some barriers for people who are different in some way, obvious or not. Poland had been a closed society for such a long time during the Communistic period. This has created a society which is hardly diverse. An Asian person, Black skinned individual or even an Australian in a funny hat will get stared at regularly. I don't mean in an aggressive way, but in a sense of wonder and difference, and sometimes a lack of understanding. There are members of parliament, religions and other areas which are quite xenophobic, mostly just through education and lack of exposure. Of course this stems from the lack of immigration and lack of travel for the residents for a period of 50 or so years.

Anyway enough of that seriousness, time for some fun photos!
No matter how little you wear, and how many Police are there, you need to keep up on the news.
Certainly a great colourful affair.
You gotta love dancing in a Sprinkler, if I didn't have my camera I would have relived my childhood in there!
There was plenty of big hand movements everywhere.
Then again there was lots of noise too and action.
Then you get some great get ups, I really hope these were registered as weapons!
A hint of Michael Jackson!
I think this street sign said it all to me, some go straight but not everyone needs to.
At first I thought this was the Lambada float. But, alas, no cheesey dance routines.
Grannies and scooby doo, certainly different observers were about.
It is all about Pace, I mean Peace.
As I said, PEACE.
You have to love a granny in a silk robe, hairnet and sunglasses.
Of course Lady Gaga made an appearance.
At least this is a queen with the Australian green and gold to heart.
While some felt out of water I think most people who ventured to the parade, gay, lesbian or straight they all had a good time. The positive feeling in the air was great, everyone was smiling huge smiles dancing to their own beat, or even the YMCA that was on repeat from one of the floats. Either way, we had a great time even though it was about 40C!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

I like Ginger and I don't mean Rangas

Sometimes you just go outside because you can. Even though this weekend was totally perfect weather wise (for an Australian I should add), I didn't really spend time outside. Most of my time has so far, not overly surprisingly, has been spent in the kitchen.

On Saturday Marty helped me bottle some Stout that has been brewing away for a few weeks (although I don't quite have enough bottles for the entire batch, so some is still sitting there in the demijohn awaiting the chance to be poured out like its soon to be beloved brethren). I like to sneak a peak now into our "refurbished" pantry, which means I built some shelves for there, just to see my little black babies. I love a good dark beer, and I also have the very few remaining bottles of the nettle beer in there, too. I am noticing that they are really getting better with age, and hence I wish I had of made a lot more of them. Now I have to wait until next year for those young sweet tips to be available again!

Before we started to bottle the beer, I had a little plan. I wanted to make some Crystallised ginger, as it is something I love in Australia simply as a snack, and is also great for an upset stomach or to torment people who hate spicy foods. So I found the above recipe (click the link) and started out.
Of course first things first, you need to turn this, to....
this, and also.....
This. The smell will already be infectious, and not in the sickly bad way either.
Then chop it into the size of pieces that you want to eat and have fun tossing it around in the sugar. Remember, as nice as it looks it tastes horrid at the moment. Except maybe the sugar part.
When you take out the ginger chunks, you get a fabulously flavoured sugar from the ginger juice. So, what you can do is use it for teas or, like I will, for cooking.
Then you get to boil the ginger until it softens and loses the opaqueness and turns a little more translucent.

As this step takes about an hour, it is when Marty and I bottled the stout.
You see now the ginger looks a little clearer, a little less yellow is probably a good way of putting it. It goes from yellow to a rich amber colour.
And it leaves a liquid that smells awesome!
I decided to bottle mine and I will use it as a dessert topping, lemonade flavourer and a tea sweetener if needed. I was thinking I might even use it to make some ginger beer..... we will see.
Which of course leaves us with the ginger which I again coated in sugar. You are meant to let it cool and drain well, but I still coated it when it was a little damp and warm, as I wanted the sugar to stick. I only discovered this was a problem when I went to grab a piece later and all the sugar had dissolved, and it now sits in a pool of its own sugary ginger flavoured liquid. That said, it is fantastic, a lot spicier than the commercial ginger, and for the cost of the root it is amazingly cheaper than in stores.

I don't care if it isn't as pretty as its commercial cousin. This to me is what cooking at home is about, saving money, knowing what went into your food, and getting something that tastes better! Long live the cooks of the house.... what will be next I wonder....

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Wild Summer of Love

Ok, ok, so the title is a little misinforming. What I am talking about is the foods of the wild. Here in Poland, as in many of the European locations, wild food really is actually closer than you think. In Australia.... I don't remember much else than the obvious animal protein, but then again that probably shows my simple ignorance and lack of attachment to the land, during my city slicker time living there. In Poland, however, it really is something that people add to their diet. It may come from the times when queues were long and supply was short, so they did the most natural thing and turned to the natural larder to get them through the leaner times. Either way, they certainly have some great traditions that I want to be part of!

We went to Sokolka so that I could vote in the elections. Yes, I voted. Well..... I put the voting slip into the box! So technically I am saying I was on the winning team even if it wasn't me registered to vote. So I am now a PPP - Polish Political Person. :) Whilst in Sokolka I continually pestered the family to take me looking for Jagoda, blueberries. To be perfectly honest, I have never seen a plant of blueberries on a farm, let alone in the forest. I knew that they were in abundance, as I had bought some recently in our local Saturday markets. Then, on the way to the far East Outpost that is Sokolka, there were scores of kiddies, grannies and the old leather jacket clad scooter rider trying to sell their deftly picked windfall on the side of the highway. I was amazed looking at them, most people with two or 3 Nescafe styled and sized jars to sell. I thought "How lazy! Couldn't they even be bothered to pick a decent amount?" Of course, this was all prior to me attempting to pick said dark purple berries.

So after getting in early Friday afternoon, and dropping the hint every hour or so that I wanted to go, Marta and her Mum finally caved in to my persistent pressure and took me to the forest. Sure I could go on my own, but I wouldn't know what was poisonous and alternatively deliciously edible. That is until I would fall over crying and hallucinating like Ralph Wiggum (see the Simpsons episode Das Bus). Ahhh, the Simpsons, always there for a reference.

So off we went, up the road maybe a whole kilometre (or to those old schoolers aka Americans, English and all Australian older persons, that is 0.621371192237 miles) we came to a stop. It was a beautiful place, opposite some tractors making hay while the sun shone. Yes, that was a literal interpretation of the site, along with 4 storks in the field hunting frogs or equally scrumptious creatures. We hopped out of the car on this dirt road and the first thing we saw was a little plant with a tiny red berry on it. I presumed that as many things in nature, red = certain death. However, Marta's mum walked over and pulled it off the plant and offered it to me. I shook my head kind of vigorously and then she popped it into her mouth. Marta made it round to the other the side of the car. "Oh goody! Wild Strawberries!"she exclaimed, as I suddenly felt like an ignorant fool. Ela wasn't trying to kill me, just give me a nice present. So we picked a few and popped them into our greedy mouths, hoping there were no bugs or sticks caught up in the collecting process. Hungry for more we climbed the steep bank of the road leading us into a small woodland.

Once there I was amazed! Originally, we had been hunting Jagodas, the elusive blueberry or maybe the odd kurki (Chanterelle), but instead we found a never ending field of wild strawberries! Well gatherers can't be chosers, so we started to pick. We picked and picked and picked and picked. Here is how kiddies without buckets would store berries for the stroll home. I personally don't know how they could survive the temptation to eat them long enough!
Ela showing a happy strawberry smile.

Non-stop for about 45 minutes or so, apart of course from the stretching to stop the knees locking, and the sneaky little munch here and there on a berry or three.
At this stage we had half a bucket full, which probably would have weighed in at about 500 or 600 grams.
It is hard to contain yourself to stop picking sometimes, when you see the almost red glow coming from these little berries when they catch the sunlight.
Quite a lot when you think most berries grow solo and none are bigger than an index fingers nail. We also did a few strawbs lay backs. Which is pick a handful and tip them all into your mouth and basically let them dissolve. These little things have the most intense flavour of strawberries ever. They are so delicate and sweet. Due to this delicate nature, there is really no point collecting huge masses of them as they won't last more than a few hours. Unless of course you are planning to make jam..... which crossed my mind, but I let the Vuvuzelas rule me. I wanted to get back to watch the Argentina vs Germany World Cup match. For once my belly didn't win! I will be back next time though.... to murder that wild field of berries and make some of the most intense jam ever! I promise this.

So what to do with these? Well other than eat them like the great healthy little snacks that they are..... I decided at half time to make some pancakes with them and a little vanilla flavoured whipped cream.
First get rid of all sticks and bugs that may be hiding there.
Distribute onto pancakes.
Stare at them in marvel.
Cover with cream, roll and add more cream and a little grated chocolate to make it look pretty. These were fantastic and I found it hard to stop at one. Luckily I only made enough batter for two rounds of pancakes each!

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