"matching tracksuits and everything"
|Washin' It All Down . . .||June 2004 ][ Back ]|
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There are several drinks one associates with Poland. Surprisingly, tea is one of them. I say "suprisingly" because tea is too English to fit into Polish society, but fit it does.
But who wants to read about tea?
Coffee is another story altogether. In Poland they drink their coffee Turkish style. They simply put coffee grounds in a cup and add water. No filter, so there's a sludge (not to be confused with sledz) in the bottom of the cup. My friend's uncle does strange things with his coffee grounds: He eats them. He puts eight or nine teaspoons of sugar in his coffee (or rather, he pours a little water of his sugar and coffee ground mixture), then eats the stuff at the bottom of the glass.
"Glass? Don't you mean, 'cup?'" you might be asking yourselves. No, I mean glass. Most often coffee is served in a glass, much like we would drink soda from in the States. In other words, there's no handle. I think it is actually rather dangerous, because it's very easy to burn my tender hands holding a glassful of hot coffee. But most Poles just grab the glass, and don't wince at all.
I'm not sure I'd ever drunk vodka straight before I came to Poland. Since coming to Poland, I've drunk a fair amount of it (comparatively speaking), but I still don't like it.
Vodka accounts for many of the little surprises I've noticed around here — missing fingers, for instance. Many men in Lipnica have part or all of one or more fingers missing. I knew fairly early on that this would be a result of carelessness in one of the many sawmills in the village, but I thought, "Come on, simple carelessness doesn't account for it." Then I saw a man covered with wood chips and sawdust come into a shop and buy a half-liter of vodka.
As far as straight drinking goes, though, Poles, while they out-drink Americans to a lip-numbing degree, are teetotalers in comparison to Russians. I once saw a documentery in Poland, called Złota Ryba ("The Golden Fish"), about vodka in Russia. It showed a home distillary that produced 140 proof (i.e., 70% alcohol) vodka that even Grandma was tossing back by the full glass (Not a shot glass, mind you, but the size Poles use for coffee and tea.), without a chaser.
Poles make their own vodka too — to a degree. It's a tradition to use pure spirits to make wedding vodka. (Kinga's father and I made it for ours.)
Still, buying spirits and dilluting them is one thing; making your own spirits is quite another.
I'll never forget the first time I saw it: standing in a shop at seven in the morning, waiting to buy something for breakfast, I watch a man come in, buy a beer, down it in one long gulp (for lack of a better word), put the bottle on the counter and walk out. Seven in the morning.
It's safe to say that beer is viewed somewhat differently in Poland than in the States. In fact, when someone in Poland says, "I haven't drunk in two days!" I take that to exclude beer. "I haven't drunk vodka in two days," is what he probably means.
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