Posts

WROCLAW, POLAND — With her right hand on her hip, Agata Zubel stood in front of a large black music stand, listening intently to the conversation between the members of eighth blackbird, a six-piece Chicago-based ensemble working on the contemporary classical piece “Madrigal,” by the French composer Christophe Bertrand. Read more

Kajmak on wooden plate

LONDON–DURING A RECENT stint living in central Serbia, I became obsessed with kajmak, which, if you can imagine, is like a lovechild between cream cheese and salty French butter. Made from the skimmed fat of cows’ milk and then mixed with salt, its consistency can vary from rather runny and milky (new) to more like clotted cream (old).

My mother-in-law and her sisters run some sort of kajmak mafia in their hometown of Kraljevo: There are frenzied meetings to discuss which of the sisters—or their one friend they also allow in on their operation—will make the kajmak pick-up, how much they will pay and how they will transport it (each sister seems to have a specific kajmak plastic container they use).

By the way, there is a huge debate in Serbia about whether the kajmak from Kraljevo or Čačak is the best.

Read more

Picture of Pawel Pawlikowski

LONDON–PAWEL PAWLIKOWSKI HAS a terrible cold, and it’s little wonder. The 57-year-old Polish director and screenwriter has for several months been traveling the world promoting “Ida,” his Oscar-nominated film centered around a young novice nun who was raised as an orphan in a Catholic convent and discovers, on the verge of taking her vows, that she comes from a Jewish family with a tragic past. Read more

Two girls kissing on cheek

BELGRADE–FOR ME, IT’S one of the biggest expat conundrums: to kiss or not to kiss. I grew up in the Midwest of America, where we were all about giving big bear hugs to friends, family and colleagues. But then I moved to London and I was thrown into the deep end of European kissing culture, which still remains awkward for me as it feels rather false and I have never worked out the unspoken understanding there seems to be between two people of whether the greeting should be a kiss or a handshake.

I once had a very cringeworthy exchange with a British army colonel at an exhibition opening. We had met a few times for interviews and also exchanged friendly emails, but in my mind our relationship was still on the handshake level. So when we saw each other, I went for the handshake and he went in for a kiss. It ended up being a very cloddish and uncomfortable greeting. Read more

LONDON–The Polish Twittersphere went slightly mad on January 15. Not only had the film “Ida”been nominated for Best Foreign Language film at the Oscars, but Poland’s entry also had been nominated in the category for Best Cinematography. There were ecstatic comments by proud Poles (and other fans of the film) that this award was competing against the big Hollywood guns for the prize. The film, shot in black and white with the vast majority of the scenes using only one angle, does have a masterpiece quality to it, feeling very art house and intimate. Set in the early 1960s in post-war communist Poland, the film is based around a young novice nun who learns that she is Jewish and her family were killed during the war. Read more