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Yesterday’s dog treat is today’s savoury tapa

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It’s not difficult to get Eastern European rye bread or a jar of Polish sauerkraut in the UK nowadays, with most supermarkets having separate sections set up to feed the needs. It is much trickier, however, to come across ingredients for special dishes that are usually frowned upon in the UK. And I am not talking about kangaroo testicles or creepy crawlies here (I wouldn’t touch those with a barge), but a simple dish involving pork.

When a colleague of mine recently waved a smart phone under my nose with a photo showing a notice board at his local pet store ‘Pig’s Ears for Sale’, I thought to myself: right, it’s time to bring some real food into office, for lunch.

Lithuanians have always loved a nice rich meal made of various pork cuts, not just bacon, ham and cutlet. When growing up in Lithuania I have been exposed to (and fed with) pig tongue, liver, kidney, pig’s head, trotters, ears, tail, intestines (a key ingredient for Vėdarai) and many other things that my mom wouldn’t go too deep into explaining. However, the main method of handling a slaughtered pig in any village was to use every single usable thing, and waste nothing.

So munching on pig’s ears or going through a plate of cooked tongue with mayonnaise was a treat. Don’t get me wrong, the better cuts were also just as nice, but the bits that the pig didn’t have plenty of (i.e. tail) were an extreme delicacy.

Going back to what I can get in the UK, I must say it isn’t much. Only a year or so ago I noticed the upcoming trend in using alternative/cheaper cuts in cooking. The credit crunch has forced many supermarkets to look into possibilities of stocking pig’s cheeks and feet, and the media has started giving some positive press coverage. Continue Reading »

If a Lithuanian invites you to dinner… || Survival tips

I’ve read on numerous occasions that people from Eastern Europe are best described as generous and extremely hospitable. So generous, in fact, that the majority of them would pull out their heart and give it to a, well, a good friend, a relative or even a foreigner. This hospitality can seem pushy and intrusive, especially when it comes down to drinking and eating habits, but they mean well.

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I took my non-Lithuanian fiancé to Lithuania several times, but one particular incident still pops up whenever he is asked to share his views on cultural differences.

While in Vilnius, we were both invited to visit my friend’s parent’s house for some lunch. The couple was very friendly and excited to see us both, as they also had a daughter who had moved to the UK a while ago and is now living with her English husband. So they instantly felt this bond – as if I was their immigrant daughter – and put on a show with three course meal.

Continue Reading »