Dear ciocia Dorota,
I have just returned to Warszawa (surely the Venice of the North don’t you think?) after having spent a few days with my family in Pcim for Wigilia as well as the first and second days of Christmas. Before I go any further, I wondered if you’d be able to tell me, as a supplemental question, how Christmas Day and Boxing Day got to be called the first and second day?
Anyway. Nothing much changes in Pcim. I sat through the habitual festive family arguments; why does uncle Jacek drink so much? Who does cousin Ola go visit every Sunday after church? Why do we never seem to dig up as many beetroot as we planted? Is the Krakus red barszcz really as good as babcia used to make? Do the hens live longer when you add Tran to their diet? What is it that uncle Wojtek adds to his home made vodka that makes everyone so sick? The usual stuff….
As the arguments were raging around me and the smell of babcia’s herring-powered farts invaded my nostrils I got to wondering whether perhaps carp was not the best possible choice for the main dish at Wigilia? I have heard stories that there are places in Poland where carp is not eaten, also that it is not actually a Polish tradition. I’ve been told that fish is important but not which species exactly.
This year was especially bad for me as I’m having corrective treatment to my teeth that involves wearing braces. It seemed that every mouthful of carp left me with a few hundred bones stuck under the wiring! It is fair to say I spent the majority of my holiday fishing around in my mouth trying to remove the carp bones and so conversation was severely limited. I don’t have much to talk about with my family, so it’s not a disaster but it seems silly that families all around Poland can’t talk on Wigilia when all the animals can!
I would very much enjoy something as an alternative to carp at Christmas but at the same time do not wish to upset the family or go against strict Catholic laws or traditions, they are, after all, what keep all us Poles together!
Any advice will be gratefully received!
Pcim (and Venice!)
Dearest darling Gośka!
Let’s get the first question of of the way quickly because it’s a pretty boring one, prawda? Calling these days the first and second day is just a way of celebrating our national lack of imagination and gift for stating the bleeding obvious! Christmas Day and Boxing Day are pagan names used by heathen tribes somewhere in the sexy West. Now those are people who know how to have fun! They give things strange names and then spend most of the time ignoring traditions, family and the church and just go around getting drunk on Bacardi Breezers and having sexy romps. They have sexy names for everything – here’s a test, which film would you rather go to see – “Ostatnie zlecenie” or “Bangkok Dangerous”? See what I mean?
Right, on to your main point about carp. I sympathise with you, princess, I really do and let me put your mind at rest, carp are not the only fruit!
You need to understand that carp are the spawn of the devil. They skulk around the bottom of turgid waters looking for the most disgusting sludge to eat so they can turn it into very small quantities of tasteless, poisoned meat and so many bones. They do this so they can get their own back for being caught at Wigilia time and confined to a bathtub before being slaughtered. Somewhere back in history, the carp realised that not only was this slaughter bad news in itself but also it was completely unnecessary as after the slaughter, nobody ate the fish! Such a ritual slaughter with no end purpose annoyed the fish greatly and so they all decided that instead of living in nice clean ponds and eating a healthy diet, they would all live in the Wisła right underneath the many sewage outfalls from the major cities along its banks. This has been going on for years now. The fish are still being slaughtered, but at least they feel a little better about it knowing how disgusting they must be for anyone who does try to eat them.
That’s not to say they are completely useless, not at all, all those bones do give the carp remarkable structural stability. In some Nordic countries they are even essential tools for self-defence. The village of Fropstroom, known for its dangerous packs of wild Dachshund, has a sign as you enter the village to remind you how important having a carp with you at all times can be!
Still, I’ve drifted a little off topic. What to do about eating the things, that’s the question! I have two suggestions for you, both will work very well;
1/ For Wigilia – make sure you get yourself some good filling food during the day, my personal favourite is a Big-Mac meal with super-size fries. In the evening, just serve the barszcz czerwony, the pierogi, the śledz and maybe a crabstick salad. When someone asks where the carp is, just tell them you bumped into some nuns who were out collecting food for the poor and needy. The only thing you had on you at the time was the carp and so you gave it to the nuns. The next day, the “first day” you can get back to eating proper food by saying you’re just following regulation 146 b of the European Union which states that “Member States receiving more than 1bn Euro in any three year period for infrastructure projects agree to assist with EU objective #32c of reducing the EU turkey mountain by 2018.”.
2/ Serve salmon steaks and tell everyone the fish is Carpus Różowus, imported from Thailand.
I tend to alternate between the two methods and have not upset anybody yet!
Two other words of advice before I go. Get rid of those braces! Heavens! How are you supposed to getting plenty of sexy-romps when your mouth is full of metal? Also, loosen up a little, girl! Get yourself down to the alleyway between Aleja JPII and Elektoralna any Friday evening after 23:00 and ask for Kazik, he’ll sort you out with some herbal remedies (nod nod, wink wink, say no more!)!
Hope this helps, Gosia and remember – you only have one life and it’s yours!