A holiday feast of Polish delicacies—it’s the law | In Principle

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A holiday feast of Polish delicacies—it’s the law

The traditional Polish dinner on Christmas Eve is expected to offer an even dozen items. Considering how quickly the favourite items disappear at our law firm’s annual holiday reception, some gourmands would probably be happy to increase the “statutory” number of dishes. This year a lot of the nibbling was done by Santa’s drivers—Rudolph and company.

What did the reindeer gobble most eagerly? The most traditional Polish dishes. After all, they were unlikely to gorge themselves on the Norwegian salmon, which is an everyday item at Claus Co. catering back home in Lapland. And one of the perks of joining the team pulling Santa’s sleigh is the chance to refuel on some of the finest local specialties around the world—foods whose distinct flavours can be traced to the microclimate and traditional agricultural methods in their region of origin.

One such item is Sechna prunes, an ingredient contributing to the taste of the stewed cabbage served on Christmas Eve. But it is not just a prune. It is produced using a traditional drying and smoking method handed down from generation to generation of farmers in Sechna or a few surrounding villages in the region of Małopolska.

The star of the evening was carp. But like the prunes, this was no ordinary carp. It was a Zator carp. These fish have been farmed since the late 11th or early 12th century in Zator and a few other towns in western Małopolska. They command a premium at the market for their fresh, delicate taste, without the slightly muddy flavour some find off-putting in the ordinary cousins of this carp. The carp at our office party certainly seemed to please the reindeer’s sensitive palates.

The stewed fruit compote was another hot item among the sleigh team. But again, it was made from no ordinary fruit, but from Grójec apples and Łącko apples.

But what do these food items have to do with the law? Well, all of them—Sechna prunes, Zator carp, Grójec apples and Łącko apples—are registered, legally protected geographical indications from Poland, protected by European Union law. Poland’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development maintains a full list of protected geographical indications on its website. The applications for their registration make fascinating reading, offering up countless morsels of historical insights and secrets of traditional agricultural production.

To register a product as a geographical indication within the EU, certain legal requirements must be met—for example, to demonstrate the connection between the product and the region and the specific qualities the origin gives to the product. There are several different registration procedures available.

At present there are 37 Polish protected geographical indications registered with the EU. This has got some folks whispering that the statutory 12 dishes on the holiday table might be increased to 37 to cover all of the registered products that can originate only in specific areas of Poland and nowhere else in the world.

But rumour has it that Santa Claus himself is not lobbying to increase the existing temptation to overindulgence by adding even more dishes. He’s concerned enough about his body mass index as it is.

And pity the reindeer who overdoes it on these only-in-Poland items. As shiny as his nose might be, Rudolph could still be grounded on the big night.

Intellectual Property Practice, Wardyński & Partners