Saturday, 9 July 2016

A Polish Mystery Solved

One of my favourite dishes in "Ognisko", the restaurant of the Polish Club in London, is called trzaski. It is basically pork cracklings served with a delicious dipping sauce. I love those things so much, I ate them even on a Friday visit. My justification was that they were not flesh but fat. Crispy, yummy fat. If I recall correctly, I was lunching with Polish Pretend Son, who was eventually convinced by my reasoning. However, he insisted that he had never heard the word "trzaski" in his life, and that pork cracklings weren't really Polish. Munch. Munch.

After my previous visit to Ognisko, I had searched the internet for the mysterious word Trzaski... What was or were trzaski--other than the delectable strips of crunchy goodness in Ognisko, of course. Was it the name of a town? A village? Really, I was stumped and eventually forgot all about it.

But today I have solved the mystery. While studying a vocabulary list compiled from that heartbreaking work of Polish genius, Baltic, the dog who sailed on an ice floe, I noted a Polish expression that had given me trouble--"a mróż aż trzaska". In English, this basically means, "Its cold enough to freeze the nose off your face." Literally, however, it means something like "frost until it cracks."

Suddenly I remembered that I had come across trzaska before, and then recalled the delightful little snaplings in glamorous Ognisko. Trzaska....trzaski! And so the mystery is solved. Trzaski means, simply, things that crack, i.e. cracklings. The chef or manager must have just transposed the English word into a Polish neologism, the clever, clever soul.

It occurs to me that only a real language nerd would get why this is so satisfying.

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