on January 6, 2010
Luxembourg – 02/12/09Luxembourg is something of a surprise addition to this list. On a Thursday lunchtime I wandered down to Albert Square to have a quick nose around the Christmas Market (otherwise known as the ‘Christmas German Market’ – of which later…). This is now the eleventh year of Manchester hosting a Central European-style Christmas market, where food retailers and craftsmen from the continent share stall space with local small retailers. Many stalls I was pleased to see making a return visit; many were new to me. One of the latter caught my eye – a small sign advertising Delicacies from Luxembourg. Well there was no way I expected to come across Luxembourgian cuisine in Manchester, so I took my chance.The stall was, like most of the others in the market a wooden chalet style affair, its peaked roof decorated with yule wreaths.They only have four things on offer – gluhwein (not really appropriate when I had to get back to the office), warm croissants with crème cheese, warm pretzel sticks, and hot gulash soup. Now I thought that gulash was a Hungarian dish. I had a quick conversation with the lady at the stall. Gulash was, she assured me, a traditional Luxembourg soup as well. So I handed over my £3 for a mug of the stuff. It was much closer to my expectations of what gulash should be than the gulash Paul had bought from a Polish take-away a couple of weeks earlier – a thick paprika orange, with potato and pork chunks.To go with it I thought I should have either a croissant or pretzel stick – both were £2. The lady said that a pretzel stick would be more authentic. They heated it up in its wrapper in a little toaster and handed it across. It was a thick chewy doughy stick – like a very thick crust pizza. It was sprinkled with melted cheese and small cubes of cooked ham. And a glance at the wrapper revealed it to have been manufactured by a company called Ditsch, from Mainz in Germany.So how authentically Luxembourgian was this meal? A Hungarian soup and a German pretzel. Well, I suppose the Grand Duchy has a touch of identity confusion, sandwiched as it is between some of the most influential nations in Europe. In fact, I know a girl from Luxembourg, and while she is fluent in English, French and German (the last two being two of the three official languages of Luxembourg), she cannot really speak Luxembourgish (the other official language since 1984). She confirmed that she would class neither of these as being particularly representative of the cuisine of Luxembourg. Searching the internet turned up a revealing quote from the website of the 2005 Luxembourg Presidency of the EU: "Luxembourg gastronomy… offers no scope for exaggerated patriotism. There is not a single indigenous dish which can in all conscience be described as typically an exclusively Luxembourgian". Which is a shame. A nation with almost two centuries of independence does not have a seemingly unique culinary culture; compare that to another small European nation such as Lithuania, which despite a history of interference by other powers still manages to have a flourishing culture and culinary manufacturing industry.
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