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Why Polish might soon be eating sushi for Christmas instead of carp

Updated on December 28, 2010

Carping on about animal cruelty

As in Slovakia, Czech Republic and Germany, carp plays an important role in a Polish christmas. A traditional Polish Christmas dinner consists of 12 (13 in some parts of the country) dishes, none of which should contain meat, eggs or dairy products. Up steps Mr. Fish, joined at the dinner table by notable festive ingredients like poppy seeds, mushrooms and different types of grain.

The majority of foreigners will find this bland but filling, Poles are proud of their food and like most nations enjoy claiming that it's the best but the younger generation who have a variety of food types available to them are not as enthusiastic as their elders.

Whilst herring and pike usually make an appearance in some form or other, it's the carp that takes centre-stage. Carps are large, fat and bony, they like to wallow near the bottom of muddy river or lake beds, this leads to them being undoubtedly dirty.

Traditionally, carp were caught fresh and kept in fresh water in the bath, keeping the fish alive until cooking time whilst simultaneously cleaning it out. Whilst the bath part is still practiced in most households, carp now suffer an arduous journey to the dinner table in these days of chain supermarkets, over production and wastage.

A large proportion of the carp are produced en masse in fish farms, they are then loaded up into trucks and sent around the country, often out of water for great parts of the journey, by the time they get to the supermarkets where they are held in overcrowded water containers on display, you can quite often see dead carp floating amongst your future dinner.

This year saw a notable change in attitude with various campaigns attacking the treatment of carp, some involved celebrities, people wrapping themselves up in plastic, others took to the streets in carp outfits and it was the birth of a cause that had been hushed up until now.

The mainstream media showed some fairly gruesome images of carp suffering and I do believe that some people were put off funding a business that puts money over ethics. You have to wonder if they treat your dinner like that, what do they feed it? Some campagins were more extreme than others, one of the milder ones simply suggested eating frozen carp instead.

Although I personally enjoy carp, not a lot of people do. It's a bit awkward, not particularly strong tasting and it needs to be fried in a lot of oil and spiced to give it a bit of a flavour. The tradition of eating carp started when people were poor and there were few alternative fish available, considering the amount of money forked out on Christmas gifts, there's nothing other than tradition to stop people eating commonly available fish such as salmon, cod and Alaskan pollock.

Poland's larger cities contain a surprising amount of vegetarians but there are even more people that love to eat sushi, the healthy Japanese cuisine is expensive but surprisingly popular with young middle class city dwellers that would pull the kind of face a woman pulls when she's putting on mascara should they meet someone who has never eaten it before.

This leads me to believe that within the next 10 years, you may very well find sushi replacing a beaten up old carp on the Christmas dinner table.


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