Wednesday, October 18, 2017

QATAR: ART AND LITERATURE


Prehistoric rock carvings and rock art have been found in several places around Qatar. Some of these drawing depict humans, animals (like turtles, ostriches, and fish), and boats while others were merely geometric and tribal designs. 

 
There are a ton of other folk art styles. Weaving and dying fabric is common, especially in a Bedouin fashion. Typically sheep or camel wool is used while the dyes were made from herbs and other natural resources. Embroidery was also a common ornamental feature in clothing. Gold threads imported from India were frequently used. There were several different kinds of stitches used as well as designs like flowers and birds.

A certain amount of art and aesthetics went into their historical architecture as well. Although simply made, geometric shapes and symmetry were important decorative features in homes. Elaborately designed doors are frequently created from wood or metal. Much of their architectural design was created with the heat in mind, and windows were seldom used. Instead, they used other ways of ventilation. However, there were vertical windows that were designed to pull in wind and naturally cool the inside of the building. Colored glass is sometimes used as a decorative feature.


Although calligraphy has long been an art form, painting didn’t really gain popularity until after the oil boom struck. Common themes include Arabic and Islamic culture. In order to cultivate more artists, the government offered scholarships to young artists to study abroad, bringing back what they learned to share through exhibitions. Art museums and galleries were then built to preserve and promote Qatari art. Jassim Zaini is often considered the founder of the modern art movement; other artists of note include Faraj Daham, Wafika Sultan Al-Essa, Yousef Ahmad, Salman Al-Malik, and Hassan Al Mulla.



Historically, poetry has been an important part of literature and has been practiced for many centuries. During the 7th century, Qatari ibn al-Fuja’a was well known for his poetry and often considered a folk hero of sorts. Most poetry during was oral and performed during social events. The most common type of poem is the Nabati poem and passed down from generation to generation. Today, they’re still being read on radio and television. Women were also poets as well, but they mostly wrote laments called ritha, which served as elegies. 

Kaltham Jaber
Modern literature, written in Arabic, didn’t really begin until the 1970s when they gained their independence from Britain. And this is one art form where females have been included pretty much equal to men from the beginning. What is amazing is that the first person to publish a book was a woman: Kaltham Jaber first published her anthology of short stories in 1978.

Up next: music and dance

Sunday, October 15, 2017

QATAR: THE LAND AND THE PEOPLE


It’s a weird word how we spell it in English. It violates that one rule about a q always being followed by a u. And how do you pronounce it? I’ve heard it pronounced as “cutter” for years and even pronounced it that way for a long time. However, I did a little research earlier and found a clip from NPR’s “All Things Considered” about the pronunciation of Qatar and came to the conclusion that it’s most likely pronounced as “kuh-TAR,” rhyming with “guitar.” 


Roman writers were well aware of this peninsula, and Pliny the Elder is credited as the first European to give it the name Catharrei, possibly named after some town. However, Ptolomy was the first to draw a map of the area and label it as Catara. During the 18th century, it was labeled as Katara, and today it was changed to reflect a modern Arabic spelling.


The country of Qatar is a peninsula that juts out into the Persian Gulf in the Middle East. It borders one country by land (Saudi Arabia), two countries by water (Bahrain and United Arab Emirates), and is directly across from the country of Iran. The vast majority of the country consists of low plains and deserts. Summers are very hot and dry while the winters are very mild and slightly wetter, although it’s really not by much. On average, the country gets less than 3” of rain each year. 


People have lived on the peninsula since the Stone Age. The Sasanian Empire moved into the area and Qatar contributed to their economy and trade with their pearl cultivation and creation of purple dye. Christianity was introduced about 400 years before Muhammad sent in his scouts to force them to practice Islam instead. This area was also an important breeding ground for camels and horses. And because of its location along the gulf, Qatari cities have long been an important stop in the trade routes. During the mid-1700s, clans from Kuwait started moving into the area. In turn, Qatari forces took over Bahrain. In retaliation to this, the Egyptians and Ottomans teamed up and hit them from the west side while the Omanis hit from the east. In 1821, a ship with the East India Company attacked the city of Doha because it was tired of their piracy. (Who wouldn’t be?) A few years later in 1825, the House of Thani was established as the ruling house, and they’re still in power today. And like most places, Qatar eventually did submit to Ottoman rule. However, initial support waned, and they stopped paying taxes. When the Ottomans stopped by in a “Where my money at?” moment, things went downhill from there, and battle ensued (more or less). In the end the Qataris gained the status of being an autonomous state. Reeling from losses from WWI, the Ottoman Empire relinquished its holdings to the British. Oil was discovered in 1939 but wasn’t explored until the 1950s. It was also part of the Trucial States, although Bahrain broke off, then Qatar, and what would be the UAE. During the Gulf War, Qatar allowed Canada to hole up there as well as the US and France. They also allowed the US to base its operations there after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. In June of this year, several of its neighbors and Egypt cut off ties with Qatar because of its alleged support of extremist groups.


The capital of Qatar is Doha and is also one of its chief ports. It literally means “the big tree.” Although it was established in 1825, it wasn’t officially declared the capital until 1971 when they finally gave the boot to the British. The city played an important part along the trade routes and in the pearling industry. Today, Doha has hosted several pan-Arab and pan-Asian sporting events, international conferences, and will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Doha is the center of government, commerce, culture, and higher education. Al Jazeera Media Network, the second largest media company in the world (second to the BBC), is based on Doha. There are a number of art museums, theatres, and even a film festival based here. 


For a long time, fishing and pearling were the main economic drivers for Qatar until the Japanese came up with cultured pearls during the 1920s, which rained on the Qatari’s parade. However, oil was discovered in the gulf, and although it took a while to fully assess the area for extraction, it changed everything. Qatar is the leading exporter of liquefied natural gas. There’s no income tax and unemployment is super low (like 0.1%). Although they have a high-income economy, they rely quite a bit on foreign workers to get there.


Like much of the region, Islam is the majority religion of Qatar. The majority of the people practice Salafi Islam (part of Wahhabism). There are also sizable followers of both Christianity (mostly Catholic) and Hinduism and a smaller group of Buddhists. The minor religions in Qatar are pretty much only practiced by foreigners.


Arabic is the official language here, but locals speak a Qatari Arabic dialect. They even have their own Qatari sign language as well. English is the most studied/most spoken second language, and in many cases (commerce, for example), it’s used as a lingua franca. Because of its international make up of foreign workers, there are many other languages and cultures (mostly Asian) represented in Qatar.


This area is so hot in the summers that it’s nearly unbearable. As a half-Scottish and half-German woman, I would practically burst into flames if I were to go during summer. Architects have come up with some solutions for creating more shadow areas as well as advanced ventilation and cooling systems. They’re even looking into using more reflective materials on the buildings themselves. Scientists predict that if climate change stays its course, Doha and other areas of Qatar will become inhabitable by the 2070s. That’s roughly 50 years from now. I will be 88 years old. It’s entirely possible I will watch this country disappear. And that scares me.

Up next: art and literature

Sunday, October 8, 2017

PORTUGAL: THE FOOD


I can already tell you this meal is making me work outside of my comfort zone. I started picking things that sounded good, but not realizing what I was getting into. Definitely not the first time that’s happened. But it usually takes the form of buying “fancy” alcoholic drinks at restaurants, the kind where you get to keep the glass, but didn’t realize each drink was $10 apiece until you got the bill. 

This might be really good with ice cream. I'll have to test this.
So the first thing I started with is the Portuguese Sweet Bread. In a saucepan, I heated up ½ c milk, ¼ c of butter, 1/3 c sugar and 1 ¼ tsp salt just enough until the butter melted; then I took it off the heat. In a large bowl, I mixed together 3 ¼ c of all-purpose flour, 1 packet of yeast, and the zest of 1 lemon. Then I poured my milk mixture into the flour mixture and stirred everything together. I added in 2 eggs plus the yolk of another egg (keeping the egg white for later) along with 2 tsps of vanilla extract (ok, I used 2 ½ tsp because I love vanilla). I stirred and kneaded the dough until it became a smooth bread dough. I lightly oiled the bottom of a bowl and put my dough ball in it, covered it, and let it rest for about an hour and a half. After punching it down, I transferred it to a lightly greased 9” round cake pan and covered it loosely in plastic wrap that I rubbed with a little bit of oil (to keep from sticking to the dough). I let it sit for another hour. Toward the end of this time, I take my egg white that I reserved and mixed it with 1 Tbsp of water and brushed the top of the bread. I baked it for 15 minutes and then lightly covered it with aluminum foil. Then I put it back in the oven for another 25 minutes until it looked golden brown on top. This was really good. You can definitely smell the lemon zest in there. It kind of reminded me of lemon cake, but I wouldn’t put any icing or frosting on top—it was sweet enough. The kids absolutely loved this.

This turned out way better than I thought. And I thought they were pretty good. Not as "fishy" as I thought they'd be.
So now, it’s the dish that makes me nervous: Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato, or clams with lemon and garlic. I bought clams still in their shells, something I’ve never done. It just seems like one of those dishes that’s really easy to get food poisoning from if you screw this up. Anyway, I found them at Kroger for $2.99/lb and bought 3 lbs (I got 8 clams, so each of us could have two). I have never done this before, and I really didn’t know what I was getting into. Then the lady added a bunch of ice on top of them and said, “This is so they don’t die of dehydration. They’re still alive, you know.” Um, no I didn’t fully put that all together in my head yet. But now I know. Of course, then the kids wanted to “babysit” the clams on the ride home, talking to them, and being generally creepy (“Hi, clams. We’re gonna eat you tomorrow. Enjoy your last night with your friends in our fridge.”). Anyway, I digress. When I was ready, I soaked the clams in a large bowl for about 2 hours in salted water before cooking them. I did rinse them off first. In a skillet, I heated some olive oil and sautéed some minced garlic for a few minutes. Then I added in my clams and covered the skillet, shaking the skillet every now and then until the clams open up. I imagine that’s them screaming from being cooked alive. It took about 10 minutes or so. Once the clams have all opened up, I turned off the heat and seasoned it with pepper, lemon juice (from the lemon I used the zest for), and chopped cilantro. I actually really liked this and was amazed they turned out really good. I’m still checking myself for signs of food poisoning, but as I write this, so far so good. I did have to tell my daughter not to eat the part of the foot that attaches the meat to the shell. She says, “Oh. Well, it was still good.”

I liked this dish, but next time, not with the olives. I just learned that olives and fish are not one of my favorite food combinations.
This was one of those weird days where I made two main dishes. The other one I made today is Portuguese Traditional Cod. I washed some small potatoes (they were literally the smallest potatoes I have ever found) and boiled them for about 20 minutes. No need to peel them. When they were done, I drained my water and set them to the side. I took my cod filets and cut them into large pieces (I roughly cut each filet into 3”x3” squares). In my skillet, I heated my olive oil and sautéed some diced onions, sliced red bell pepper, and some minced garlic for a few minutes, until the onion looked translucent. Then I added my cod and seasoned it with pepper and paprika and cooked it on both sides for 10 minutes. After the cod is cooked through and flaky, I added the potatoes into the skillet as well and cooked for 3-4 more minutes. Then I took it off the heat and garnished with chopped cilantro and sliced black olives. I actually liked this pretty well, although it probably needed a tad bit more salt.

The best veggies are fried. It's thought that the Portuguese introduced tempura to the Japanese when they were exploring Asia.
Finally, to go with this, I made Peixinhos da Horta, or fried green beans. I bought some fresh green beans and snapped the ends off of them. In a saucepan filled with salted water, I boiled my green beans for 10-15 minutes. When they were done, I drained the water. In a small bowl, I mixed about ¾ c flour, 3 eggs, pepper, parsley, and a little salt and whisked with a fork until it’s a creamy consistency. I had to add in a little water because it was too thick. When my oil was heated in my skillet, I dipped my green beans in the batter and fried them until the sides are golden brown. Then I placed them on a plate with a paper towel. I liked these, but the kids weren’t really fans of them. Maybe if I had a sauce or something to go with them, they might’ve liked them better.

Definitely a half-glass, after-dinner, sipping kind of wine. 
I also bought a bottle of Madeira wine and a bottle of Port wine. However, both bottles of what I bought are American versions of its Portuguese counterpart. Madeira wine is from the Madeira Islands, which are off the coast of Africa while Port wine is exclusively made in the Douro Valley in northern Portugal. I definitely like the Port more than the Madeira because it’s a little sweeter. I do like dry wines, but these are fortified wines that have brandy added to them, and I’m not so much of a fan of brandy. Brandy tastes musty to me; it’s the same reason I don’t like raisins. (I’ve always said raisins and prunes are the farts of the fruit world.) But the upside is that both of these come in at 18% alcohol by volume, and I’ll be damned if I waste some high-alcohol wine.
Overall, I'd give his a thumbs up. Now to get over there for real.
Up next: Qatar

PORTUGAL: MUSIC AND DANCE


Portugal’s music history has been influenced by several different European traditions. One style of folk music that is widely associated with Portuguese music is fado. Fado, which means fate in Portuguese, often has lyrics that aren’t for the weak. It is typically centered around loneliness, sadness, poverty, and other similar themes. Fado was developed from the urban poor of Lisbon and usually accompanied by the acoustic Portuguese guitar. There are a few offshoot and variations of fado, but it is all an expression of how tough life is. Amália Rodrigues is a fado singer, often called the Queen of Fado. 

 
The Azores and the Madeiras have their own variations and musical traditions as well. There are a variety of plucked string instruments they utilize, such as the cavaquinho, the machete (no, not the big knife), and rajao. Bagpipes are also used in Portuguese music as well. 


The Azores are also known for their dance called a chamarrita. This dance is performed in ¾ time and primarily accompanied by a fiddle. (There’s actually a dance in the southern Brazil-Uruguay-northern Argentina area of the same name, but it’s not quite known whether the two dances are related or not.) The Madeira Islands also have a dance called the Bailinho de Madeira (as shown above). There are several dances that are well known in mainland Portugal: Fandango (although Spanish in origin, it’s one of the national dances here, and especially from Ribatejo), Corridinho (especially of Algarve and Estremadura regions), Bailarico (starts out as a circle dance and ends in a waltz), and the Schottische (also called xote in Portugal, a type of circle dance where pairs of partners never change).



Portuguese musicians span the gamut when it comes to what genres they typically work in. I’ll run this by genres just because there are quite a few bands I briefly sampled, many of them I liked. And many of these bands sing in English as well as Portuguese. I’ll just go ahead and start with rock: Xutos & Pontapés, The Gift, Blasted Mechanism (kind of an electronic rock), Wraygunn (like a blues-rock), Moonspell (metal), Quinta do Bill, More than a Thousand (metal), Decreto 77 (punk), Dream Circus (indie rock), Nelly Furtado (she’s Canadian but parents were from the Azores), and Linda Martini.



There were a few hip-hop artists I listened to: Da Weasel, Boss AC, Sam the Kid, Buraka Som Sistema (more dance and electronica and kuduru – I originally included them in my Angola playlist), and Valete.


I did find a couple of electronica artists: Noisia and Paranormal Attack. I think I liked Paranormal Attack more because Noisia’s music seemed a little too experimental to me, almost disjointed. And I also listened to a reggae artist from Portugal, Richie Campbell. I suppose I’m related to him somewhere way back there (my maiden name is Campbell). I’m a fan of reggae music, and I liked what I heard here.

Up next: the food

Thursday, October 5, 2017

PORTUGAL: ART AND LITERATURE


Art in Portugal generally followed the art trends of the rest of Europe. However, one of the key decorative arts is azulejos, or glazed tiles. It was especially popular during the 16th and 17thcentury when homes, buildings, churches, and palaces used to finish their walls and floors with this kind of tile.




Tombs dating to the 12th and 13th centuries were decorated with a number of sculptures. And after the Portuguese began to explore the newly formed colony of Brazil, it became a source of inspiration for Baroque-style sculptures in Portugal as well, especially during the 18th century.
 
by Machado de Castro

The first art schools began teaching artists in Portugal during the 15th century. Portuguese artists really started to gain notoriety during the 17th -19th centuries as painters during the Classical and Romance periods took off. These were influenced by the art capitals of Italy and France. Flemish painters also introduced their painting styles to Portuguese artists as well, creating a deep legacy of religious artwork. Some artists of note during this time were Machado de Castro (also famous for his sculptures), Nuno Gonçalves, Grão Vasco, Jorge Afonso, and António Soares dos Reis.

 
by Carlos Botelho

A few prominent artists have graced the international stage when it comes to representing Portugal. Carlos Botelho (known for street scenes of Lisbon), Paula Rego (known for “storytelling” in art), and Maria Helena Vieira da Silva (known for her abstract paintings) have become well known in the 20th century. 



The literature of Portugal is written in Portuguese, which developed from Galician-Portuguese. Literary works trace back to about the 1200s and was mostly poetry that ranged in a variety of topics from love poetry to historical accounts. Much of these were influenced by Italian poetry of the day. Literary styles from Italy and Spain continued to influence Portuguese verse and prose on through the 16th century.  Drama was also introduced into the mix during the 16th century, but it was mostly relegated as a lower-class entertainment.
 
("It's the heart that makes the character." --Eça de Queirós

Like other literary movements in Europe, Portuguese also went through roughly the same ones. Portuguese literature during the Renaissance and the Baroque periods saw an increase in plays, lyric and epic poetry, and prose, although the Baroque period probably had more of a focus on prose. During the Neo-Classical period, historical, academic, and literary criticisms began to be published along with the usual canon of works. Brazilian literature also had its influence on Portuguese writing and was gaining popularity during this time as well. The 1800s brought Romanticism and a change of thinking. A sense of awe for nature, Eastern philosophy, and agnostic ideas began trickling into poetry and prose.

 
José Saramago

Some famous names to watch for in Portuguese literature include José Saramago (Nobel Prize winner, 1998), Luís Vaz de Camões (author of epic poem “Os Lusíadas”—it was him who Elizabeth Barrett Browning was referring to in her “Sonnets from the Portuguese”), Alexandre O’Neill (poet, one of the founders of the Lisbon Surrealist Movement), Eça de Queirós (novelist, founder of Portuguese Naturalism), Antero de Quental (poet, sometimes thought to be the head of Modern Portuguese Poetry), and Fernando Pessoa (poet, famous for his poem “Mensagem”).



Up next: music and dance

Sunday, October 1, 2017

PORTUGAL: THE LAND AND THE PEOPLE


For the past few years, I have been really interested in moving to Portugal. First of all, I have a basic grasp of the language, so it wouldn’t be as hard to get around. Second of all, there are a myriad of other reasons like universal health care, a world-famous wine region, affordable college tuition, and decriminalized drugs. And you can receive social security retirement payments (including direct deposit) while retiring to Portugal. Just putting that out there for those interested. But I also read that it’s hard to get sponsored to work there. Since I’m not a millionaire yet, this is important for me.
 
The name Portugal is named after the Latin name for the city of Portus Cale (modern day Porto), which became Portucale, and eventually Portugal. You might have seen the terms Lusosphere or Lusophone, which refer to the areas that are culturally tied to Portugal or the Portuguese language. The Luso- part of this is from the name Lusitania, an ancient (and possibly Celtic in origin) region of Portugal. 


Portugal shares the Iberian Peninsula in the southwest corner of Europe with Spain. Its western coast borders the Atlantic Ocean. Two island groups are also part of Portugal as well: the Azores (located in the Atlantic Ocean about 900 mi from mainland Portugal) and the Madeiras (off the coast of Morocco and north of Spain’s Canary Islands). The Tagus River cuts across the country horizontally, getting its start just east of Toledo, Spain and dumping out into the Atlantic Ocean near Lisbon. Portugal has a Mediterranean climate, although that can vary from south to north.



The earliest people in Portugal were the Celts, and then other people from elsewhere in Europe began to pour into the Iberian Peninsula. The Romans tried to control the area, but the Lusitanians fought them tooth and nail against it; however, they eventually became a province of the Roman Empire. Germanic tribes began to be moving into the area during the 5th century. In the year 711, the Umayyad Dynasty moved into the Iberian Peninsula and turned it into an Islamic state for the next 400 years. Portugal gained its independence in 1128. Like much of Europe, Portugal was also hit hard from the Bubonic Plague of 1348-49. From the time of the late 1300s until the early 1600s, Portugal was one of the key players in global exploration. Portuguese sailors ventured into Africa (Cape Verde, São Tomé and Principe, Guinea-Bissau, Angola, Mozambique), North America (Canada), South America (Brazil), and Asia (Oman, Japan, Timor and Indonesia, Australia, Goa in India, Macau in China, Taiwan), and others. Things got pretty crazy for the ruling class in Portugal, that they actually up and moved to Brazil and carried on their business from there. Although they had their own political instability during the 1920s and 1930s, they were one of the few countries that remained neutral during WWII. Starting in the 1970s, Portugal gave up most of its colonies, giving them their independence; East Timor finally gained its independence in 2002.


The capital city is Lisbon, famous for having survived a massive earthquake in 1755 (estimated at 8.5–9.0). It was even mentioned in Voltaire’s Candide. With between 2.7–2.8 million people, this alpha-level city is the largest city in Portugal and Europe’s westernmost capital city. It’s also one of the oldest cities in Europe. Lisbon is the center for government, commerce, and finance. It also has plenty to offer in the way of sports, cultural venues, higher education, transportation, shopping, world-class restaurants, and historical site that locals and tourists benefit from.


Portugal is part of the Eurozone and uses the euro as its currency. Their economy is highly developed, and they are a high-income country. However, if I moved there as an American, I can expect to earn about 57% less money. Their strong industries include footwear, textiles, and cork (they’re the leading producer of cork), and since the 1990s, Portugal has made a move to develop more high-tech jobs. They also have a significant number of agricultural products they farm as well as a strong fishing sector. Portugal is also a prominent tourist spot, often named as one of the best tourist spots in Europe. 


The majority of Portuguese (about 80%) claim Roman Catholicism, even though far fewer (about 18%) actually attend Mass on a regular basis. There are a number of other Christian denominations and Eastern religions represented in Portugal as well. What’s surprising is that over 14% list themselves as non-religious or unaffiliated.


Not surprising, Portuguese is the official language of Portugal. Portuguese is one of the Romance languages and has its roots in the Galician language, which still has many similarities (Galicia is the Spanish region just north of Portugal). The Mirandese language is a spoken in a small group of communities in northeastern Portugal. Counting first- and second-language learners, there are only 15,000 speakers, and it’s actually listed as a co-official regional language, but really it’s only used in this area.


I have long wanted to visit Portugal’s Douro Valley, which is famous for its wine production, especially for its port wine. Port wine is made by adding in brandy just before the fermentation process ends and aged for 2-6 years, resulting in a very sweet and more alcoholic (20%) wine. I’m a huge fan of wine, but I’m not sure if I’ve ever had port wine. However, I’m going to go to a larger liquor store this week to see if I can find some port. Because I have a feeling I might need it this week.

Up next: art and literature

Thursday, September 28, 2017

POLAND: THE FOOD


Somehow I managed to escape spring allergies, but fall allergies sneaked in when I wasn’t watching and knocked me down a week. I took a nap every day when I came home from work. I just felt so exhausted! So, that’s why I spread out my dishes over a couple of days. 

 

I would've never really imagined that cooked rice in a bread would be good, but I was wrong.

On Sunday, I made Polish Rice Bread, or Pirog. I emptied my yeast packet into 4 Tbsp of warm water and set it off to the side. Then I brought 8 oz of milk, ½ c of caster sugar (I used baker’s sugar), and 6 Tbsp of butter just to the point of scalding it, and then I took it off the heat. I added in 2 beaten eggs, a spoonful of vanilla extract, a pinch of salt to the milk mixture. Then I slowly whisked in my 3 2/3 c of flour a little at a time. Once I got it to start to form a dough, I folded in my sultanas (I used golden raisins), kneading it until it became smooth. I put a little oil in the bottom of bowl and rolled the dough around in the oil. While this was resting for the next hour, I made the rice mixture. In a pan, I mixed 17 oz of milk, 4 Tbsp of baker’s sugar, a pinch of salt, 1 Tbsp of butter, and 6 oz of rice. I brought all of this to a boil and then turned the heat down until it was cooked soft, setting it to the side to cool. This rice tastes similar to what my mom used to make when I was a kid. When the dough was done resting, I punched it down and spread it out in a casserole dish. I poured the rice mixture down the center of the bread, spreading it out a little bit. Kind of like an envelope, I took the sides of the bread dough on all sides, and folded them to the center; the rice still showing in the center. Before I put it in the oven, I brushed the top with melted butter and sprinkled it with cinnamon. I let this bake at 375ºF for about 10 minutes and then lowered it to 350ºF for another 25-30 minutes. I really liked this bread; it almost reminded me of a bread pudding or rice pudding flavor. The sultanas were surprisingly my favorite part. It was flavorful and went really well with strong coffee (I’ve been on a Café Bustelo kick lately). 

 

This took so long to make that we were basically eating at 10pm at night.

Yesterday, I made Golabki, or Polish Cabbage Rolls. First I sauteed up some onion and garlic in a little bit of butter and set it off to the side when the onions looked transparent. In a smal bowl, I mixed together 2 eggs, some marjoram, some thyme, salt, and pepper. In a larger bowl, I mixed some ground beef (2 lbs was too much, probably 1 lb would’ve sufficed, and the recipe also suggested doing a beef/pork or beef/veal combo), cooked rice, onion, garlic, and egg mixture; I mixed everything together and set this off to the side. After I cored my cabbage, I took the leaves and blanched them in boiling water for a few minutes to make them pliable. I took them out and placed a little bit of the meat inside the cabbage leaf and folded it up. I placed all of the stuffed cabbage leaves in my casserole dish and layered them when I ran out of room. When I was done, I poured a large can of crushed tomatoes on top of the whole thing and topped it with a little oregano (I had used the last of my marjoram, so I had to make a quick substitution). Then I baked this at 350ºF for an hour and a half. I thought it was really good. I was afraid my cabbage leaves would fall apart, but they held together better than I thought they would. The flavor was good and not bland. I think it probably would’ve been better if I had a beef/pork mix, but maybe an idea for next time. 

 

Of course, I added broccoli and cheese. Of course I did.

And finally, I made Potato and Goat Cheese Pierogi. I started off making the dough by peeling and boiling 2 potatoes in salted water until they were soft. (I reserved half of the potatoes for the filling.) I mashed my potatoes and then added in my flour, cornstarch, and salt. In a smaller bowl, I whisked together some egg, sour cream, and butter and added it into the potato mixture, stirring until everything started to come together. I turned this out onto my floured pastry mat and kneaded it until most of the lumps were out and it was smooth. Using my rolling pin, I rolled this out and cut out circles until the dough was used up. Then I covered it with some wax paper while I made the filling. I used the other half of my potatoes and mashed them. In that same bowl, I also mixed in some goat cheese, finely diced onion (in lieu of shallots), an egg yolk, heavy whipping cream, a little thyme (I couldn’t find my sage), and a little salt and pepper. In the center of each dough circle, I put a large dollop of filling and folded it over halfway, pinching the edges. Then I dropped these (about 8-9 at a time) in boiling water for about 6-7 minutes. I really liked these quite a bit! They were filling and had a good flavor. I think I’d like to make these again and add in some bacon bits to the filling mixture. Then it would remind me of that French dish I made (Tarte Flambée).

 

A mazurek is also a type of highly decorated cake, most likely named after the dance or the region it's from. It's too pretty to eat. But leave me alone with it for five minutes... 

I still think Polish looks like an incredibly hard language. There are so many consonants together and not enough vowels that it seems nearly impossible to pronounce. But as I was looking though YouTube comments on some videos I was watching on Polish music, someone had made a comment about why they use the term mazurka and not the Polish term mazurek. And while the Polish terms for some things may seem really hard to pronounce, this would be one case where it wouldn’t necessarily make much of a difference, I suppose. But it got me thinking of why we have an “English” version for names for things rather than respecting the original language (Rome in English vs. Roma in Italian). I don’t really have the time for a long historical linguistics explanation for this, but I wonder if using mazurek instead of mazurka or Roma instead of Rome would make me sound pretentious. Follow-up question: do I care?

 

Up next: Portugal