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Culture and food…

Last year I went on two foreign jaunts. The first was to Turkey and the second to a small town in Poland (Silesia). Well, one country is essentially Muslim (though technically secular and I hope shall remain so despite the government there going mental and banning things like elective C-sections for some reason).

Anyway! Food! And culture! I like Turkish cuisine. OK, I had an interesting time in Istanbul (also Troy – a fixer-upper if ever I saw one and Gallipoli (that must have been fucking hilarious). I was struck by the war memorial at ANZAC Cove…

Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives…

You are now living in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours…

You, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace, after having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”

Here it is…

Those are the words of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Not a nice man but a great man. Anyway I met Allah in Istanbul (aka “ceiling cat”) who dropped almost on me in the Istanbul underground. He, she or it then proceeded to go “Meeer!” and then buggered off which is what cats do. But the food was good and the beer adequate. “Efes” tastes very American – I shall say no more. Turkish wine mind is almost worse than Greek. Coke is much the same though.

But whilst you could drink yourself to death (and Atatürk did) I only saw one restaurant serving pork. And that was in a former Christian section and it was Spanish. I guess it had to have pig. Without pig the Spanish don’t have a cuisine at all.

But the Turks still generally don’t eat pig. They might drink and fondle women of negotiable virtue and gamble and all that but they don’t eat pig.

My other trip was very different. It was a small town in Poland rather than a Metropolis spanning two continents (they have a statue of a bull that I posed with -oh, you know the legend!). I was just pleased to be in Asia – so I performed no utterly dreadful acts – I did have my first pizza in Asia and very nice it was too. That’s three ticked off! I dunno if I can be much fucked with most of the rest to be honest. Transatlantic does me. If I’m going to be strapped into a duralumin can without a fag for an unfeasible period then it’s Mars or bust! Fuck Bali!

In Poland I was staying with my sister-in-law and her boyfriend. Now in Poland the kebab is the coming thing. But when a Pole talks of “meat” they mean almost exclusively the flesh of the swine. Yes, even with kebabs. Now if you buy a kebab in Istanbul or Manchester a sheep died for it. Not in Poland – a pig copped the unfortunate one. And these are kebab shops run by Islamic immigrants. Some will be Turks or Pakistanis or Bangladeshis (like in the UK) but they are mainly Bosnian and similar in Poland. Now what puzzles me is that I once had a break from the tyranny of the pig and that was wild boar! But what really puzzles me is that when we were picked-up from the airport Marian (my sister-in-law’s boyfriend) had to take it easy around some deer.The Poles regard deer as something for looking at and not driving FIAT Puntos into. I think them also tasty (deer, not FIATs). We could have put the ambling Bambis on the roof-rack.

So there you have it. Culture is determined by food more so, in my book, than by religion or whatever. Of course the intermix is intermixed but that is why we travel! And that is why I like my pierogi over there and Marian always orders lamb here. You see we have other animals good to eat other than pigs (and so do they but they don’t think of them as such).Things beyond the ken of the Poles but then we have turkey (bah!) at Crimble and they have carp (yay!).

I really like Central European food. In the Czech Republic, just past a border-post (then for sale – an interesting property – partially in Poland and partially in the Czech Republic – you could have a DMZ in your dining room! You could plant a minefield!) there is a T-34 tank and a restaurant that fried cheese. And the Czechs can fry a good cheese I can tell you.

Earlier I had had the best Mexican food (not cooked by moi or a Mexican – my office pal Maria was quite good at Mexican food being from Mexico City and all) in the small town in Poland outside of North America (where the vast majority of Mexicans indeed live*). We do Mexican terribly here. I mean the Chiquito chain and all? But then I ate at a TGI Fridays in New Orleans because the alternative was gumbo and I don’t eat invertebrates. New Orleans. A tourist trap (they no longer have a streetcar named “Desire”, they have a bus) ringed by a shanty town (unmetalled roads and gaffs that look like Boo Radley just moved out). It also has the most problematical road system on the planet

*Clue One. Don’t call a Mexican “Central American”. You don’t get invited for dinner.


  1. zack says:

    NickM: Culture is determined by food more so, in my book

    Nick, please tell me that’s just you being silly, not you being serious.

    anyway, I think that that is a rather nice memorial at Gallipoli. Have to admit though, I didn’t know about it, and I’m kinda suprised that Ataturk would put it up. It’s not often that the victors put a plaque up to commemorate their adversaries.

  2. NickM says:

    No I am deadly serious.

    And there a couple of VCs cited solely by Germans too. One from a U-boat captain who lost his U-boat to an RAF aircraft.

  3. zack says:

    Nick: No I am deadly serious

    Ok, I’m going to have to call you out on this. I think you have it exactly backwards – food is a marker of culture, not a driver. If the Turks started eating pork, that wouldn’t suddenly make them more like Greeks or Croats. Are you suggesting that the growth of Indian cuisine Britain is making the Isles more like India? That promoting spotted dick and apple pie in China is a key to spreading civil society and rule of law? Seriously? I still half suspect you are pulling my leg.

    The pork-kebab sellers in Poland is a (welcome) sign of assimilation, not a driver of it. The Turks didn’t become muslims because they disliked pork, they stopped eating pork because they became Muslims, or at least, that seems to me to be the most likely reason. You’re going to have to unpack this theory of yours for me – provide a really solid argument to convince me. I look forward to it.

    And there a couple of VCs cited solely by Germans too. One from a U-boat captain who lost his U-boat to an RAF aircraft.

    Learn something new everyday.

  4. Simon Jester says:


    You don’t eat invertebrates? Seriously? No oyster, lobster, calamari, prawns, scallops …?

  5. NickM says:

    Just because they live in the sea they’re still bugs.

    I didn’t exactly say food drove culture but it is a huge part of it.

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