A supermarket in Estonia
Arvamus 28 Dec 2009  EWR
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The best sort of eastward expansion
Europe.view column, from Economist.com

Food in Europe’s ex-communist countries has an undeservedly bad reputation: stodgy peasant fare ruined by the culinary commissars of the planned economy. Your columnist has long disagreed, but proof is needed. So, on a recent visit to a supermarket in Tallinn, Estonia’s capital, he set out to construct a winter picnic entirely from local ingredients.

The basis was easy: black bread, pungent and tasty. It makes loaves from the west and south of Europe seem bland and boring. So into the shopping basket went four or five different varieties, with different features: seeds, rye, crunchy and chewy by turns.

The mainstay of the picnic was pricey at €15 ($22), but succulent—a smoked salami from Lithuania. Accompanying it in the shopping basket were a gourmet smoked cheese from Estonia, a tin of smoked sprats (Latvia), Polish pickled mushrooms, plus Czech horseradish and Hungarian hot peppers. Who says eastern Europe is a vitamin-free zone? For dessert, Polish “chocolate plums” from the Solidarność confectionery works are a fine offering. So were crispy, crunchy gingerbread biscuits (Estonian) and a packet of dried apple rings (Polish).

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