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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 »

Top 10 Lithuanian gift ideas for Christmas

We’ve all been there. It’s easy to buy a traditionally French gift (some perfume or a bottle of exquisite champagne), a gift with a Spanish flavour (a hamper full of chorizo sausage and wines, or a set of terracotta tapas dishes) or even a typical Russian gift (usually a doll called matrioshka). If you are a Lithuanian national stranded somewhere in Europe, it is rather tricky to find a symbolic yet unforgettable Lithuanian gift for someone special.

I’ve recently picked up a brochure published by Lithuanian State Department of Tourism entitled “25 things not to miss in Lithuania”, and the 23rd thing not to be missed was called “Lithuanian handicrafts”:

Traditional Lithuanian handicrafts, such as artistic linen, ceramic or amber articles, can make beautiful decorations for your home or great gifts.

And I couldn’t agree more. One thing is to go to Lithuania and shop for those items at numerous fairs and markets; however, shopping for Lithuanian art or Lithuanian linen products while abroad becomes more difficult. Here’s my selected list of recommended retailers specialising in just about anything Lithuanian you can think of.

1. Amber and silver pendant

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By Ula © Ona.com

Think Lithuania, think amber. If traditional amber bead necklaces are not your cup of tea, opt for something more modern and subtle.
Available from: Ona.com

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Festivities at the Lithuanian Country Club in Hampshire || Events

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It’s that time of year for Lithuanians in the UK – the celebration of Sekmines. Perhaps one of the main annual events within the community, this get-together traditionally takes place at the Lithuanian Headley Park Country Club ‘Sodyba’ in Sleaford near Bordon, Hampshire.

This long-living tradition of celebrating Sekmines (Pentecost, also called Whitsun) is probably better known among Lithuanians in the UK as the ‘second bank holiday weekend in May’, and provides an excellent chance of reconnecting with our roots, so to speak. If the weather happens to be glorious, the Lithuanian homestead in Hampshire can easily accommodate over 500 guests, enjoying their picnics on its beautiful surroundings.

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On Lithuanian stereotypes, immigration and… art || Away in UK

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“The British feel the competition and they don’t like it, because it makes them work harder”, observes Rokas, a 20 year old Lithuanian photography student, currently living in London.

This and many more rather bold statements are featured in a short documentary story recently produced by Gerifilmai.com, and available online.

And no, Rokas does not pick strawberries in Kent; he wouldn’t know how to lay bricks, and he certainly feels rather upset by the Lithuania-related stereotypes we all have to shake off.

The video is rather short and slightly too one-dimensional to fully explore the subject of immigration impact on the British economy, or the perception of Lithuanians in the UK, but perhaps the slow pace of the interview is proof that there are decent, normal Lithuanian people out there who don’t have to drink drive or commit murder in order to attract attention.

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.

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