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Culture

Cleopatra's Love Meets Kosher Vodka

EU expansion is also bound to change Europe's kitchens. The new member states are joining with their culinary specialties in tow -- some of which might take some time getting used to. Here's a sneak preview.

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L-ikla t-tajba! Dobrou chut! Jó étvágyat! Enjoy your meal!

BALTIC STATES: Delicacies from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania haven't been able to conquer other European countries. Meat (Pork, lamb and beef) is a staple food that usually gets served with berries and mushrooms. Blini, which are also omnipresent in Russia, are small pancakes filled with sour cream or fish.

Wurstverkäuferin in Litauen

A Lithuanian sausage seller

More traditional Baltic treats might not get past strict EU guidelines: Fresh blood sausages that contain innards might have to be sold under the table in the future. Also threatened are giant salami sausages stuffed into pig bladders and yoghurt and cheese specialities made from raw milk.

Feldhase

Rabbit

MALTA: Traditional Maltese cuisine tends to be rustic. A favorite is rabbit -- roast, grilled or as a stew. "Widow soup" shouldn't be taken literally as it is a vegetable soup with goat cheese. The archipelago's proximity to Italy is mirrored in Malta's kitchens, but British colonizers (perhaps less fortunately) also left their imprints behind.

POLAND: Vodka isn't just a Polish speciality as the "little water" forms part of the country's national identity. Outside the country, "Zubrowka," which contains buffalo grass and tastes a little like cinnamon, is one of the better known kinds. Polish machos wouldn't be caught drinking it as they think it's a woman's vodka.

Wodka Konsum in Polen

Spectators pour themselves a vodka during a folk music festival in a village east of Warsaw.

Poland has dozens of Vodka producers, who even offer a kosher version, which apparently is much more gentle to the human head. Hangovers are even less likely if vodka's enjoyed while eating one of Poland's famous sausage delicacies. Poles are also trying to get EU protection for "Oscypek," a smoked cheese made from sheep's milk. There's a slight problem with that, however: The Slovaks are trying to turn their version into an export hit as well.

Feta

SLOVAKIA: The Slovaks call their sheep cheese "Bryndza" and the EU has already recognized it as a regional speciality, which means that it can only be exported from Slovakia. It's not taken Europe by storm so far, however, and is barely known elsewhere except for some parts of Austria. "Bryndza" is also the basis for Slovakia's national dish, "Bryndzove Halusky," a kind of potato dumpling with bacon and sheep cheese.

SLOVENIA: A type of braided bread that's called "Struklji" is Slovenia's best known food and gets served with sweet, meat or vegetable fillings.

Weinfässer

wine barrels

Another national product, "Cvicek" is so important to Slovenes that they fought hard during EU accession negotiations to get an exemption: "Cvicek" is a red and white wine mixture, which only has about 5 percent alcohol -- too little for EU norms. Now Slovenes can keep producing, selling and drinking the wine and some hope that it might become popular elsewhere as well.

Glas Bier mit Zapfhahn

CZECH REPUBLIC: Czechs like to drink -- plum brandy, for example, which is better known as "Slivovitz." There's also the so-called "thirteenth spring" in Czech spa town Karlovy Vary, which produces "Becherovka," a herbal liquor. Let's not forget about beer, of course, the Czech national drink. Two kinds exist, "desitka" and "dvanactka," the former containing less alcohol than the latter. Needless to say, Czechs also eat from time to time: Bread and flour dumplings filled with fruit are famous.

HUNGARY: Hungarians love their meat: Debreczin sausages and salami are world famous.

Zigeunermusik aus Ungarn

They go nicely with a glass of Tokaj

Many meat factories will have to close down after Hungary joins the EU, however, as they don't fulfil hygiene requirements. At first, Hungarians also feared for their Tokaj wines and their fruit schnaps, "Palinka." After a bitter fight, Slovaks can now produce the wine under the same name as well as three Slovak villages bordering the region of the same name.

Weinglas und Karaffe

CYPRUS: Wine's a big one for Cypriots as well. They call it "kommandaria" and claim that it's the world's best sweet wine. The recipe allegedly dates back to a knight from the medieval Order of St. John, but it's been known to exist since ancient times. "The sweetness of your love is like Cyprus' sweet wines," Marc Anthony apparently whispered into the ear of his lover, Cleopatra.

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