June 02, 2004

The Eastern European Food Revolution

Over at Crescat Sententia, Will Baude links to a Tyler Cowen post commenting on the high quality of Polish cuisine. He notes that "Things have definitely changed since I was there about ten years ago. I do hope Cowen has steered clear of Polish pizza though, which probably hasn't changed, and probably still involves both ketchup and wonderbread. And no, I kid you not."

Will's post reminded me of a Chicago Tribune article I'd planned to discuss over the weekend:

Fifteen years after shaking off communism, Eastern Europe is engulfed in a food revolution, with people no longer content to shovel down only meat, boiled potatoes and stick-to-your-ribs dumplings.

From Bratislava to Budapest, eating habits and tastes are radically changing. It's a stark shift from 15 years ago, when classic spaghetti in Slovakia meant ketchup and shredded cheese atop overcooked noodles.


Under communism, vegetables such as broccoli or asparagus were virtually unknown. Today, nearly everything is available, and in quantities that would have been inconceivable during communism.

No more waiting in line to get the basics, or fresh pineapple or mandarin oranges for a special Christmas treat. These and other fruits can be bought year-round.

Tastes are fuller and more refined. Ethnic eateries have helped convince people that mixing meat with fruit isn't a crazy idea. Italian restaurants have shown that pizza shouldn't be a thick yeast cake topped with vegetables and ketchup.

Some things do change, it seems! Today's Washington Post, meanwhile, profiles Arkadii Novikov, "a Soviet cooking school graduate rejected for a job at Moscow's first McDonald's" who has become the food guru of Russia's oligarchs and the undisputed restaurant king of the new Moscow.

I'm fortunate in that all of my Russian travels took place after the fall of Communism; I ate the worst pizza I've ever tasted in Moscow's Sheremetevo airport, but at least it didn't have ketchup on it!

(There are moments, by the way, in which I think it would be fun to be a culinary historian: it's not the biggest historical sub-discipline, of course, but there has been some recent work in the field. If I'd wanted to make culinary history my main scholarly interest, however, I could have picked a country of study whose cuisine is tastier than Russia's!)

Posted by Ed at June 2, 2004 04:18 PM

Oh, the food in Budapest and Prague was so good. Hot, fresh, cheap. I had some great goulash, corn on the cob from the street, delicious Greek food, fish, really everything was good.

Things might have changed a bit, though. Countries in the EU can't buy eastern European (especially Rumanian) produce in large amounts, so they have to buy mostly Dutch stuff, which is not as good and more expensive.

Posted by: kathleen at June 3, 2004 04:08 PM

ear plugs http://ear-plugs.incsx.com/

Posted by: ear plugs at December 12, 2004 03:01 AM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?