On Tuesday, we launched the second round of the Food is GREAT/Taste of Britain campaign, the largest and most concerted effort ever mounted to see the best of British food and drink onto the shelves of Polish supermarkets and delis. The focus has been on quality premium products. Some have been here for a while (Scotch whisky, fine teas), some are emerging (cider, Cheddar cheese, chutneys, Indian sauces, shortbread) others are quite new (Wensleydale cheese, pork pies).
Pork pie. The defining savoury snack of England. Along with the sausage roll and Cornish pasty, the idea of encasing minced and seasoned meat into pastry, ideal for eating on the go. Britain's answer to the hamburger (from Hamburg) or frankfurter (from Frankfurt).
Pork pie. Two succulent syllables that require seven to articulate into Polish - wieprzowina w cieście. And launching this product on to an audience of food writers, buyers, distributors and importers, we stumble upon a major cultural difference between Brits and Poles.
Do you serve a pork pie hot or cold?
In my entire life, the question has never even entered my mind. Cold, of course. You do not heat the pork pie. That is its essence. It demands to be eaten cold (stored at +6C to +8C, served at room temperature), with chutney or pickles, and to be washed down with a fine ale, cider or a mug of tea. Eating a pork pie hot is a bizarre cultural quirk, rather like drinking tea with milk.
And yet Poles seem to expect that this delicacy be heated through before it can be eaten. And also prefer to eat it with a knife and fork, off a plate, rather than to be eaten from the hand, scattering crumbs on the floor.
Like Polish kiełbasa, pork pies fall into two categories there's the good stuff, and the mass-market product made down to a price point which has little to do with the original concept. Let's focus on the good stuff. The particular pork pies presented in Warsaw on Tuesday are made by Toppings Pies from Yorkshire and Dickinson & Morris (est. 1851) from Melton Mowbray (the home pork pie). Between them the two firms presented a vast range to be sampled - pork pies topped with caramelised red onions, with Stilton cheese, with sage and onion stuffing; huntsman's pie, game pie (where partridge and pheasant replace humble pork), vegetarian pie with spinach and Feta cheese...
|Pork pie anyone?|
Ah. and we need some chutney and pickles. And nostril-blasting English mustard (which a Polish colleague described as 'yellow wasabi'). These came courtesy of Tracklements of Wiltshire, a family firm producing premium condiments. The perfect accompaniment to pork pie.
|My lunch, today. With a single-estate Pfunda tea by Birchall. No milk.|
|Daniel Kawczynski MP promoting pork pies in Warsaw.|
|"Mr Ambassador, the Polish nation awaits your verdict..." HMA Robin Barnett enjoys.|
|Kruche ciasto z nadzieniem mięsnym = Pork pie|
Everything must be eaten by Friday evening, so I take home one large pie and two smaller ones. Moni and her boyfriend Maurycy tuck in. Maurycy asks whether it shouldn't be served hot. After hearing this question many times over the past two days, I'm not surprised. Moni's favourite is the pork pie topped with caramelised red onion.
|Maurycy and Moni tucking in. Moni's off to Tel Aviv tomorrow. No pork pies there.|
I guess that in 20 years time, British visitors to Poland will say: "It's the little differences. Example? In Poland, people eat pork pies hot." Just as Polish visitors to Britain say "In Britain, people drink tea with milk."
Now all that's needed is a good distribution network to get this culinary delight into Polish shops and thence onto Polish tables.
This time two years ago:
The meaning of class - in England, in Poland
This time three years ago:
This time seven years ago:
(this week the temperature has not fallen below +10C, not even at night)