Whenever you change cities you find yourself in the situation of not knowing your surroundings. You end up straying through your area until you assemble the mosaic of its character. I'm embarrassed to admit that it took me two months to figure out that my quarter in Brussels is actually the Polish quarter. The fact that an immense amount of people speak Polish in the streets and that even Belgian bakeries have fridges with Polish beer should have been a give-away. But what can I say, I'm busy. Sue me.
As I got the limited choice of corporate supermarkets, I found myself positively surprised by Polish stores in my area and what they had to offer. Granted, I have little knowledge Polish and often find myself confused with the descriptions, but ultimately, I prefer the products over the ones I'd get in the regular store.
Bizarrely, the debate in the European Union has been marked in the last several weeks by the issue of dual food standards. According to Central European countries such as Poland, their country is being provided with lower quality products in their supermarkets, compared to Western Europe. This had lead Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to refer to the existence of dual food standards as “the biggest scandal of the recent past”, despite there being no evidence of its existence. The Visegrad countries are now calling for EU-wide food regulations to get rid of this imaginary conspiracy.
Even more strangely, it'd stand to reason that if the Poles really believed in dual food standards, they would certainly not buy Polish products once living in Western Europe. This however, turns out to be the case: the Polish supermarkets are filled with, you guessed it, Polish people.
Taste is not an objective measurement that politicians can get involved in, as it is dependent on culture, all the way down to the individual. We all have weird friends with very odd food preferences (pineapple on a pizza, really?). Hell, there might just be as many Poles in Warsaw buying their products in a Belgian shop (they wouldn't be to blame, as the chocolate here is grandiose). Taste diversity is something we need to celebrate, not condemn. Diversity belongs in our music, our languages and our food.
I just love my Polish supermarket because it lets me become a part of that diversity.