My food in Poland

Part of a series of posts about food I’ve eaten around the world. See: Iran

This year I spent a few days in Poland visiting a friend, Will Badger, who has lived in the country before and speaks the language pretty fluently.

I was looking forward to trying Polish food as I’d never experienced it before, with the notable exception of pierogi (more below). I wasn’t disappointed, and Will knew where to take me to get the best stuff!

My favourite meals were eaten in milk bars (bar mleczny): originally cafeterias for students and workers during the Communist times, still running today, serving good, wholesome, inexpensive food.

Oscypek  (smoked sheep cheese) with lingonberry jam. Salty, warm, melt-in-your-mouth, with a side of sweetness. I bought this one from a street vendor on a cool May evening in Warsaw:


Breakfast! Scrambled eggs, ham, cottage cheese, fresh bread, pancakes (nalesniki), and  coffee:

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My Food in Iran

This will be part of a series of food I have eaten around the world. Everything is delicious.

Koloocheh, a soft bready biscuit with a cinnamon filling (recipe here). This was comforting on a chilly December evening in Tehran, like eating a hug:


This was a nutty stew (probably Fesenjān) that our guide told me I, as a foreigner, wouldn’t like. I ordered it to teach him a lesson, but I did genuinely enjoy it. It had a strong, vinegary flavour, which I was fully prepared for that having eaten my Dad’s pickled walnuts which taste much the same:

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Shakespeare and King Arthur in Iran

Shakespeare never wrote a play about King Arthur, and he only mentions Arthur and Merlin twice each. You’d think there wouldn’t be much to say about Arthur and Shakespeare, and in a way you’d be right. But when the University of Tehran hosted a conference on Shakespeare’s universality, I immediately thought of Arthur; not because Shakespeare had a lot to say about the legendary king, but because other writers have frequently put the two together, despite there being such a tenuous textual link. I figured that talking about why people were keen to make Shakespeare an Arthurian writer — or to make Arthur as Shakespearian character — would illustrate how far-reaching Shakespeare’s influence is, felt in a subject matter he barely wrote about. Shakespeare crosses literary traditions as much as times and national boundaries.


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Speaking in Iran

In November I travelled to the University of Tehran to speak at Iran’s first ever Shakespeare Conference, held at the Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures.

The conference was titled ‘Not of an Age but for All Ages’, and its theme was on how Shakespeare crosses boundaries of time and place. My paper was on King Arthur and Shakespeare. I wanted to speak on this subject because I was fascinated by how the figure of Arthur fits into different contexts, and a Shakespeare conference in Iran seemed to be an interesting context to consider.

I’ve written separately about the content of my paper, and my experience of the wonderful conference, here. This post will be about my adventures in Iran.

The British Home Office Map to Iran
The British Home Office Map to Iran

I didn’t know a lot about Iran before I went there. I have travelled in the Middle East before — I’ve made a few trips to Egypt and Jordan — but I knew Iran would be very different.

Iran felt like somewhere dangerous to go. In fact, the Foreign Office website covers Iran in orange with a bit of red around the sides. The orange stands for ‘Don’t go unless your life depends on it’. The red stands for ‘Abandon hope all ye who enter’. At the same time, I knew that Iran wasn’t ‘enemy territory’. 78 million human beings live there. I’m a human being. I’ll fit right in!Read More »