Hundreds of jokes are based on national stereotypes. But is there any truth in national stereotyping? Researchers say: not so. The "million crown bed" has finally made it to Prague. And, ambassadors' wives put their heads together to bring Tastes from Around the World to central Europe. Find out more in Magazine with Daniela Lazarova.
There's an old joke that goes: Heaven is a place where the police are English, the cooks are French, the lovers are Italian, the mechanics are German and everything is organized by the Swiss. Hell is where the police are German, the cooks are English, the mechanics are French, the lovers are Swiss and everything is organized by the Italians. But is there any truth in national stereotyping? The results of a new study conducted by an international team of psychologists on 4,000 people of 49 nationalities suggest that these stereotypes are far from correct.
Participants were questioned about how neurotic, extraverted, open, agreeable and conscientious typical members of their own culture are. This data was then compared with participants' assessments of their own personalities and those of other specific people they had observed. The researchers found that there was no correlation between perceived cultural characteristics and the actual traits rated for real people. For instance according to widely accepted cultural stereotypes the Americans are pushy and the English are reserved. Not so, researchers claim. According to their findings the English are highly extrovert and given to experimenting while the Americans are no more pushy than the Canadians, the English or the Germans. Czechs allegedly consider themselves a nation of grumblers - who are conflict-prone and unpleasant. But the results of this latest study published in Science magazine suggest that in reality Czechs are among the most friendly people in the world. They scored unexpectedly high marks in modesty and altruism. Few myths about what people are like actually held up to the data, revealing that in many cases cultures had overly harsh views of themselves.
Stereotypes about national character appear to be largely cultural constructions, transmitted through the media, education, history, hearsay and jokes. The head of the research team Antonio Terracciano says he now hopes that the results of this study will make people address their own misconceptions - and think more kindly of themselves -and others.
Are you finding it hard to sleep at nights? If so, it could be your bed simply isn't up to scratch and you should think about getting a replacement. Ideally - the Rolls Royce among beds, favoured by Madonna and most Scandinavian royals. The "million crown bed" as it has been dubbed by the Czech media is now on display at an expo in Prague and you have an ideal opportunity to try it out for size. Made by a Swedish firm, it has a 25 year warranty and is guaranteed to give you the best night's sleep you ever had. Made of pine and pear wood, special bed-springs that won't squeak no matter what you do on it and boasting 100 percent natural fibres and optimal support, non-allergenic and attractive to boot - the bed will cost you one million and fifty thousand Czech crowns. Many people shake their heads in disbelief over the price, but according to its maker - a Swedish firm with a 150 year old tradition- it will become your favourite place on earth and it will come with your name on it, on a special plaque attached to the bed. So, if you have a million crowns to spare, think about it - sixty Czechs have already succumbed to the temptation.
Do you like experimenting in the kitchen and trying out foreign dishes the names of which alone present a major challenge? In that case I have a tip for you. The Czech Diplomatic Ladies Association -meaning the wives of ambassadors posted to the Czech Republic- have put their heads together and come up with a very special charity project: an "international" cookbook which they all helped to put together, choosing not only the best that their country has to offer but delicacies that they often serve their own high-ranking guests. The cookbook, called Tastes from Around the World, is easy to use with recipes in Czech and English and advice on where to get hard-to-find ingredients. The recipes come from all over the world -and the colour photographs will give you a fair idea of what the end result should look like. I met recently with the Canadian ambassador's wife Mrs. Pearl Jutzi to find out more about the cookbook:
"Every country represented in the Czech Republic was invited to submit. We encouraged people to pick very typical, traditional recipes from their country and we also encouraged them to give us a little anecdote, a two or three liner about what makes this recipe special."
Can you mention some?
"Of course, there are two special features from Canada. The dessert is Frozen Maple Soufflé where the special ingredient is the maple syrup. This is a recipe that I use only for special occasions. In fact, I used it at a diplomatic dinner here at the residence just this past Tuesday. The other recipe was a main course and it has the French flavour as Canada has the French and the English components to its population. It is the "Tourtiere", a typical French dish at New Year's. Egypt did a vegetarian dish called Koushari that has lentils, garbanzo or chick peas and rice. The Americans, Mrs. Cabaniss from the US embassy submitted Southern Slaw. The Cabanisses are from Alabama and southern slaw has been in the family for many generations and is apparently a dish that she uses for family gatherings in the summer."
I see you even have Vietnamese spring rolls...
"Yes, we have Vietnamese spring rolls, there are lots of delicious Asian recipes. I was just reminded of a drink that the Peruvian ambassador submitted, a drink I had never experienced or enjoyed before I came here - it's called "Pisco Sour". And now I have the authentic recipe. That is one of the benefits of having this cookbook, because many of the dishes that ambassadors serve at their residences you wouldn't necessarily find in a cookbook back in your home country, whereas here you have the two best recipes from most of the diplomatic representation here."
Was it difficult to put the cookbook together when many of the recipes were translated from foreign languages?
"Yes, that was perhaps the biggest challenge -correcting the English so that it matched the cooking process. We could re-write it but we wanted to keep the flavour of the author's presentation. This was a challenge. Some of the funny things that would happen for example is that Chocolate Mousse came through almost to the end as Chocolate Mouse, having dropped an "s" in the translation and another recipe was for codfish which had become Godfish and it was just at the last minute that we caught that. So, yes, there were lots of challenges, but the humour carried us through those little episodes."
It is possible to obtain a copy of Tastes from Around the World for the price of 300 Czech crowns, approximately 12 dollars, with the proceeds going to charities. For a copy of the book please contact Mrs. Jutzi herself at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Here is a small sample of the recipes included:
Apricot Cream Cheese Dumplings - Austria
Bohemia is actually considered as the legendary origin of the fruit-Knodels. From Bohemia and Moravia they came to Vienna.
By Beatrice Daublebsky
INGREDIENTS: /for 4 people as a dessert/
250 g cream cheese
zest of 1 lemon
a pinch of salt
100g flour /mealy/
1tsp vanilla sugar
FILLING and DECORATION:
salted water to boil the dumplings
10-15 sugar cubes
breadcrumbs to coat the dumplings
1. Form a smooth dough from the ingredients above and let it rest for 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, wash the apricots, remove the pits and replace them with a sugar cube, then put a piece of dough around the apricots and form nice dumplings.
3. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and simmer the dumplings for approximately 10 minutes.
4. Drain them and roll them in roasted breadcrumbs. Sprinkle powdered sugar on top to serve. Enjoy your meal!
Tip: Cherries, plums or strawberries can easily be used instead of apricots.
/ Egyptian Dessert/
This is a traditional dessert in Egypt. It is recommended in wintertime as it is served hot. The word OM in Arabic means mother, and ALI is an Arabic name. I hope you will try it because you will love it.
Regards from Heba El Baz Kamal
INGREDIENTS: /for 6-8 people/
4-5 sheets of puff pastry
250 ml fresh cream
¾ cup sugar
1 litre boiled milk
2 tbsp raisins
2 tbsp roasted almonds
2 tbsp roasted hazelnuts
grated coconut /optional/
1. Roll puff pastry and bake it until golden. Cut pastry into small pieces and put it in an oven dish.
2. Remove skin from almonds and hazelnuts and roast them separately. Put the roasted almonds, hazelnuts and the raisins over the pastry.
3. Add sugar to the milk and bring to boil. Pour it over the pastry.
4. Whisk the cream and pour it on top of the pastry.
5. Bake it in the oven at 200 C for about 5 minutes or surface is coloured.
6. Serve hot.
Stew of the Incas - Peru
/Cau Cau de Mariscos/
Cau Cau, the original Rachi Rachi tripe and potato stew of the Incas, is eaten in exactly the same form by modern day Peruvians. This is dressed up for a dinner version.
By Maria Eugenia Galindo de Patino
INGREDIENTS: /for 8 people/
200g cooked octopus, sliced
200g raw scallops
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium red onion, chopped
2 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp turmeric powder
1 1/2 cups fish stock
1/2 cup cooked peas
1/4 cup cooked carrots, diced fine
2 medium white potatoes, boiled and diced
1/2 cup cooked corn kernels
1 tsp ground fresh aji limo/chilli
3 small sprigs fresh mint, chopped
4 cups cooked rice
salt and freshly ground pepper
1. In an earthenware casserole or large heavy frying pan, heat oil and
sauté onion translucent, about 3 minutes.
2. Add garlic and continue cooking for another couple of minutes until the
mixture starts to colour.
3. Add turmeric and cook for a further 2 or 3 minutes.
4. Add scallops and cooked octopus and cook for another 3 minutes.
5. Add stock, peas, potato, corn kernels, carrots, salt and freshly ground
pepper to taste.
6. Simmer for 8 minutes.
7. Just before serving add aji and mint.
8. Stir thoroughly and serve immediately over rice.
Ice skating fans are in for a big treat. The famous American ice show Champions on Ice is performing in the Czech Republic. Between October 12 and 16th people can see it in five big cities - Prague, Brno, Zlin, Ostrava and Pardubice. Among the star skaters are Surya Boanly and Irina Sluckaya, Evgeni Plushenko, Johnny Weir, Josef Sabovcik and Frederik Dambier.