Sunday, August 31, 2008
Dinner in Białystok
Who knew that Polish food could be so incredibly delicious? It's not just pierogis and bigos, let me assure you. Mr. D and I had one of the best dinners ever the other night, in a hotel in Białystok.
We had driven all day, and had seen the primeval forests of northeastern Poland, with their mysterious silent herds of bison lolling about in deep undergrowth. We heard the occasional snort or snuffle, but mostly just the rustle of aspen leaves in the chilly air. We saw the Tsar's hunting lodge in Białowieża, and then drove almost to Białorus, along a narrow road carved out of the deep green woods, that became finally a single lane of black asphalt.
We crossed an unsignaled railway line (just the old wooden red and white "x" on a post as a warning), and then crossed over two narrow gauge railway tracks that hadn't been used for decades. Finally, a clearing appeared in the deep green, and there, through fences and gates and wires, was the border station. It looked like a really inviting forest lodge, and we so wanted to visit.
However, not having applied for our Białorussian visas, we sadly had to turn round and go onward, back into Poland...
But as I say, this was not all bad, because by the time we arrived back in Białystok, we were famished! We checked into the Hotel Cristal, and dressed for dinner.
And what a dinner it was. Mr D had carpaccio of wild boar and roasted eggplants with asparagus, while I tried the forest mushroom soup, followed by a smoked duck meat salad. We finished with a plum compote in Żubrówka bison-grass vodka for me and a pear and caramel ice cream confection for him. Divine.
Oh yeah, brag brag brag. Why do I have to read about this, you're asking?
We thought you might want to know what we DIDN'T have.
Here's one thing we didn't try....
"Smażony sandacz w puszyslym kremie z raków, z opiekanymi w koprze ziemniaczkami"
Sounds kinda yummy, doesn't it? All those sz's and y's and funny little accent things. Surely they're tasty, right?
Fine. But here's the translation:
"Fried perch-pike in flossy cancer cream with roasted in fennel potatoes"
Hmmm. Think I'll pass. Cancer cream? How is it flossy? I just don't know about that.
Turns out that this is an unfortunate and awkward translation describing a dish that's probably delicious.
Smażony sandacz. Fried perch pike. OK. We're with you so far.
W puszyslym kremie z raków? Hmm, this gets less appealing. "Pusczyslym" is "fluffy". Fluffy, flossy -- too close to call, really. Maybe the menu editor's finger slipped on the dictionary page a little?
But "kremie z raków"? Cancer cream? It's too much. But understandable, perhaps?
"Kremie", yes. Cream or sauce. "Raków"? Well, it's the Polish word for crayfish. But the second definition in the dictionary is "cancer", as in the astrological sign "Cancer". Is this the problem? The menu editor looks at both words and picks: "eeny, meeny, minie, mo... aw, let's go with 'cancer' rather than 'crayfish'. Sounds more exotic."
Indeed it does.
Or did I totally miss something even more subtle? Like cancerous perch-pike, glowing with radio-active post-Chernobyl tumours, fish that have swum long miles, escaping westward into Polish streams, only to be cruelly caught and tossed into pans in Białystok kitchens? For our dining pleasure.
Native Polish speakers, please weigh in!