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Lithuanian Food Traditions

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Lithuanian Food Traditions

Lithuanian Food Traditions

Lithuanians like to eat good, tasty and filling foods. The tradition of eating well is inherited from the ancestors who would say, „he who eats well, works well“. Lithuanian traditional cuisine took shape over many centuries and was much influenced by cultural contacts with neighboring nations.

Lithuania is divided into five ethnic regions. This regional division is evident in foods that are particular to each region. The Highlanders (Aukstaiciai) live in the North Eastern region and aare known for their pancakes and cottage cheese dishes. The Samogitians (Zemaiciai) inhabit the North Western region and have their special sour butter, porridges and gruels. Dzukai are the people of the South Eastern region and are main consumers of buckwheat, mushrooms and potatoes. Suvalkieciai, people of the South Western region favour smoked meat, sausages and cepelinai. Fish plays an important role in the diet of the seacoast Lithuanians and those living near lakes and rivers.

Lithuanians usually eat three ttimes per day, and the most filling, sumptuous meal is lunch: soup, meat, potatoes etc. Breakfast and dinner are rather light meals.

One of the oldest and most fundamental staple food was and is rye bread (rugine duona). It is eeaten every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Two kinds of bread are traditional – plain fermented and scalded. Plain fermented bread has been baked from ancient times, while scalded bread has only been baked since the beginning of the 20th century. Even though very few families bake bread at home now, they still value the traditional belief that bread is more valuable than gold.

Potatoes have become an essential starch staple and are eaten throughout the year. Many delicious dishes are made with potatoes. The most popular are cepelinai, kugelis, potato pancakes (bulviniai blynai), potato casseroles etc.

Another basic Lithuanian food is grain, such as rye, barley, oats, buckwhet, peas and oil crops (hemp, poppies, flax). Rye is still tthe most important crop, used mainly for rye bread. Groats and flour are made from wheat and barley.

Soup is eaten every day, too. Rich soups are served for lunch. Most popular soups are sauerkraut, beet and sorrel, with smoked meat as the base. Meat cooked in soup is often eaten as a second course. Most soups are served with bread or potatoes. In summer, cold beet soup with hot potatoes is very popular, as are cold sweet soups made wwith berries, fruit and tiny dumplings.

Lithuanians consume a lot of meat and its by-products. Pork has always been the most widely used meat – fresh, brined or smoked. For longer keeping, many varieties of sausage are made. Skilandis and other smoked meats are robust and delicious. Fowl meat is also popular. Domestic birds – chicken, geese, ducks – are cooked, smoked and baked.

Milk products have been popular since ancient times. It is used to make cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream and butter. Most popular is cheese (suris), which can be sour, sweet or flavored with caraway seed.

Lithuania is rich in mushrooms, and more than 400 edible varieties are found in the forests. Mushrooms are used in in many dishes to add special flavor to meat, fish and potato dishes. They are used fresh, dried, salted or marinated.

Fruits and berries and some vegetables are seasonal. During summer they are eaten fresh, but for winter supplies they are dried, fermented and pickled. The most popular fruits are apple, pear, plum, cherry; berries include strawberry, gooseberry, blueberry, cranberry, raspberry, currant. The most popular vegetables are cabbage, beet, carrot, cucumber, onion, turnip, radish, parsnip and horseradish.

Mead (midus, honey liquor) aand beer (alus) are ceremonial and traditional drinks. Midus is the oldest and noblest drink, served during banquets and special occasions. Travelers and chroniclers wrote about the manufacture of midus by Lithuanians and Prussians as early as the 11th century. Good conditions existed to make midus because honey used to be taken from wild bees in tree hollows since ancient times. Beer is brewed from sprouted barley malt. The most popular malt beer is made in Central and North Eastern Lithuania, where strong beer is popular. Most of home made wine is made in the South Western region (Suvalkija) from forest and orchard fruits and berries. To satisfy thirst, Lithuanians brew a semi sour drink, gira. Another ancient drink, sula, is made from birch and maple sap, collected early spring.

Each housewife does her very best to pamper the family during the holidays. There are many recipes for all occasions, and a variety of cakes, cookies and sweet rolls are made. Among them there is the famous sakotis, a must for every special occasion, which originally came from Germany at the beginning of the 20th century.

Lithuanian Food and Entertainment Traditions

Lithuanians like to eat good, tasty and filling foods. The ttradition of eating well is inherited from our ancestors, who would say, he who eats well, works well.

Lithuanian cooks prepare simple but tasty foods. A good cook can create delicious meals using simple ingredients. It is said that each cook stirs the cookpot in her manner.

The traditional food preparer was and is mother, her knowledge and capabilities are handed down to the next female generation. Before food was prepared using only seasonal products, however during the last twenty-five years, fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs have been available all year round, imported or grown locally. The same applies to meat, now more fresh meat is used than salted or smoked.

Lithuanian traditional cuisine took shape over many centuries and was much influenced by cultural contacts with neighboring nations. A good example is potato cake – kugelis, which Lithuanians adapted from the German kitchen. This has now become a favorite dish throughout Lithuania.

Lithuania is divided into five ethnic regions. This regional division is evident in foods that are particular to each region. The Highlanders, Aukдtai‹iai, live in the rich loam, northeast region, and are known for their various pancakes and cottage cheese dishes. The Samogitians, eemai‹iai, inhabit the northwest

region and have their special sour butter, porridges and many gruels. Dzukai are the people of the southeast region, where the soil is sandy and forested. They are main growers and users of buckwheat in all its forms, as well as mushrooms and potatoes. Suvalkie‹iai, people of the southwestern region favor smoked meats, sausages and zeppelins. Fish plays an important role in the diet of the seacoast Lithuanians and also of those living near lakes and rivers. These differences are lless evident today than they were in olden times. However, the tradition of regional foods continues.

Lithuanians usually eat three times per day, but during periods of hard and intense work, especially in summer, mid morning and late afternoon snacks are added to the daily eating routine. The most filling, sumptuous meals are breakfast and lunch. Porridges, pancakes and soups for breakfast, soups, meat and potatoes for lunch. In the evening, dinner is a light meal. However, one does have aa square meal, for the ancient Lithuanians said that there is no sleep on an empty stomach.

Lithuanians consider eating a holy event and behavior at table is like in church, quiet, orderly and reverential. Each family member had his ppermanent place at the table, with father sitting at the head of the table, mother sitting opposite father, the oldest son to father right, and the remaining members next to the son. The traditional seating at table is now practiced mainly during feast days, when the entire family gathers.

Today the ancient tradition of placing bread first on the table is still observed. Should a visitor arrive when the family is at table, the visitor greets the eaters with „skanaus“ (bon appetite). If father answers „prasom“(you’re welcome), it means do join us. However, if the answer is „aciu“ (thank you), the visitor is not invited to join in the eating. When the meal is finished, the spoon is turned upside ddown, to show that one has eaten well and the food was delicious.

No one leaves the table until everyone has finished eating and has thanked the cook, mother, who in her turn answers „I sveikata“ (to your health).

Christmas Eve, Christmas

Kuиios, Kalлdos

As the days draw shorter, Lithuanians have finished most needed chores and are ready to celebrate Christmas Eve, December 24th, and Christmas, December 25th.

Christmas Eve is a very special time with the gathering of the ffamily at the ritual meal „kucia“. This word has been borrowed from the Greek „kukkia“.

Kucia denotes the main food of the ritual supper, made from grain and pulses.

The evening meal begins when the evening star appears in the sky. A white, linen tablecloth is placed on a hay-covered table. Hay symbolizes the birth of Jesus in the manger and also the hay, where the souls of dead family members rest on.

Holy wafers and Christmas bread are placed side by side in the center of the table. These are surrounded by other foods, of which there can be seven, nine or twelve, all meatless. Twelve foods are most commonly prepared, to assure that the coming year, twelve months, will be good and plentiful.

The traditional kucia – porridge, is eaten with poppy seed milk, as are the Christmas biscuits. It is a must to eat oatmeal pudding with sweetened water.

The other foods include beet soup with dried mushrooms, fish – mostly pike, herring and mushroom dishes, as well as apples and nuts.

Traditional drinks are thin cranberry pudding and dried fruit compote.

When all the foods are in place, candles are placed on the table and lit, aand the family is seated. A special place is set at the table for a family member who died during that year. It is also tradition to invite a poor or homeless person, or to take food to them. This behavior assures that there will be happiness in the family throughout the coming year.

Eating is begun with the passing around of the Christmas wafer ...

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