Life in Poland – Rogal Świętomarciński (St. Martin’s Croissant)

Yesterday was a national holiday in Poland, Independence Day to be exact. It’s not much of a holiday traditionally (more an excuse to stay home and watch TV for most people). In recent years some cities have developed something like parades and the capital Warsaw has become a place for thugs and their opponents to slug it out.
But where I live, Poznań, it has a culinary twist.
The day is marked with something known as the rogal świętomarciński (St Martin’s croissant), which is now a protected European food product.


The official story is that this is a traditional local delicacy in Poznań and the Wielkopolski region. But many years ago I translated an ethnographic paper on local food traditions that explained that its association with November 11 was a conscious decision by local authorities to distance themselves from the locally unpopular Józef Piłsudski who assumed power on November 11. He had not been very supportive of a local uprising. The borders of the new post WWI Polish state did not include enough of the Wielkopolski area to satisfy the Polish people living there and there was an uprising which ultimately succeeded with no help from Józef.
Rather than celebrate a holiday that would at least indirectly support an unpopular figure, local traditions were twisted and manipulated to create new holiday tradition! And eating the croissant became a way of solidifying local identity against the too-Eastern-oriented general. Relations between Poznań and Warsaw remain frosty to this day….
The croissant itself is delicious but among the heaviest foods ever created, those things have their own gravitational fields. I can eat half a one and enjoy, but a whole croissant is pushing it and any more than that and I feel like I opened my mouth real wide and a cannonball was fired into my stomach.

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