29 - Polski Sklep
Today’s artwork was done on a sausage wrapper. Why a sausage wrapper? Have I run out of art paper? Well, no, but this beautiful, strong rectangle of white greaseproof paper is the perfect reminder of my first visit to the Polski Sklep, the Polish shop just round the corner, and was difficult to just throw in the recycling, so I washed, dried, smoothed and reused.
Like the Stitching Elmers opposite it (see my previous post), the Polski Sklep is a centre of community life. Earlier in the day I’d walked past and noticed the busy shoppers inside, and those who were, it seemed, just there for the crack. I decided to return in the afternoon when I had the shop more or less to myself and could have a good look round and chat to the man behind the counter, Dominik.
I told him I was exploring the shops on my doorstep, some of which I’d never set foot in before. Why hadn’t I gone in the Polish shop? It’s bright and clean and the door flung wide and welcoming. The names of the products were all in a language unfamiliar to me, but it was easy to see what everything was – and there’s always google translate if unsure, I thought to myself. A vast array of Polish and Hungarian food – cakes and treats, cucumber soup, delicious-looking bread, and, in three big fridges humming in harmony, cold meats, cheeses, paprikas and pickles of every kind, as well as everything you’d expect from a well-stocked convenience foodstore. “It’s a very specialist clientele” Dominik told me. Why such a specialist clientele? Because, very often, the unfamiliar, even on our doorsteps, can be intimidating, or just doesn’t even register in our consciousness. We see words or images we perhaps don’t understand, and our eyes move quickly on to the reassuringly familiar.
I was attracted to the pickles and selected a large tub of cherry paprikas, which I was assured were “not too spicy”, to go with the “village sausage” I’d been recommended to try. All looked wholesome and much of it toothsome. The prices were very cheap. I spent just £3 on my sizeable peck of pickled paprika and the length of sausage which would provide two hearty meals, hacked off for me from a bunch in the refrigerated counter.
Generally vegetarian, I do eat meat once or twice a year, and the village sausage didn’t disappoint as a rare treat. Smoky and mild when eaten as is, but I enjoyed it most fried with onions and mushrooms and served up with lentils. As for the cherry paprikas – I bit enthusiastically into one of the plump juicy fruits – Wow! A fiery volcano erupted in my mouth. Luckily I had some cooling kefir to hand, and the fire was extinguished in just a minute or two. I will be treating the paprikas with the caution they deserve in future, thinly sliced and suitably combined, but for those who like their food hot hot hot, the Polski Sklep, 121 Ryde High Street is the deli to go to.