Monday, May 19, 2014

Joe Zawinul, his symphony, the Roma and food.

A few weeks ago, I picked up the late Joe Zawinul's symphony, Stories of the Danube. The fifth section is called "Gypsy," as in the Roma people, to whom Zawinul traced at least part of his own lineage as a part Sinti (guitarist Django Reinhardt is the most famous Sinti musician).

Oddly, all this struck me rather forcefully on Sunday while dining at the German Cafe in French Lick, because I ordered delectable Zigeunerschnitzel, which features a hearty paprika sauce. The German word translates as Gypsy Schnitzel, and as it turns out (unsurprisingly) is not as savory in connotation as the meal in French Lick.

We are against the word "Zigeuner"

The Roma (including Sinti; read this report from Cologne) were viewed as racially inferior, and harshly treated in Nazi Germany. It is believed that 25% of the approximately one million Roma living in Europe before World War II died in the Holocaust.

For deeper reading, this book is 20 years old, but invaluable: Bury Me Standing: The Gypsies and Their Journey, by Isabel Fonseca.

Zigeunerschnitzel may be politically incorrect, but enlightenment through cuisine remains an option, as in this encouraging story about Roma cooking.

Introducing Roma Cuisine, The Little-Known 'Soul Food' Of Europe, by Meghan Collins Sullivan (NPR)

 ... A development group in Slovenia has just opened the first large-scale Roma restaurant in Europe. Romani Kafenava in Maribor, Slovenia, began serving up traditional Balkan Romani dishes like stews and grilled meats in April.

Why Slovenia? About 12,000 of the small country's two million inhabitants are Roma. With more than 3,000 Roma, Maribor – Slovenia's second-largest city — has the biggest concentration of Roma in the country. As is the case with many countries in Europe, the Roma have long been ostracized here.

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