Comforts From Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe has often been at the forefront of messy battles, both in commentary and physical war. Consisting of Belarus, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Ukraine, this region is the proud home of many hard-willed, resourceful citizens. With a hearty cuisine reminiscent of the economic and political turmoil of the continent, as well as relentless weather, this region of the world refuses to stay rattled.
Durable and Tough
Up until fairly recently, these Eastern European nations were often conquered, occupied, or used as pawns in a political game of chess. In the 1900s, two World Wars combined with harsh conquering regimes severely impacted these countries, both economically and socially. Because of this, as well as notoriously harsh weather conditions, culture and food across this region has been formed and molded throughout the years. While Eastern Europe has been relentlessly dealt difficult cards, the citizens have shown great resilience– and they have the delicious, hearty recipes to match!
Comforting Richness and Flavor
Many inhabitants of this region tend to gardens, which grow potatoes, onions, cucumbers, garlic, kohlrabi, peppers, radishes, turnips, beets and dill. With plentiful fertile farmland, a steady production of wheat, millet, and buckwheat aids in the popularity of fresh breads, pasta, and dumplings. Popular spices, mostly paprika, pepper, mint, and basil, are used in most dishes to enhance the flavor. Nearby forests provide natural ingredients such as mushrooms, and sprawling lakes as well as the Baltic and Black seas make for prime fishing despite the region being fairly landlocked. Widespread dairy farming has ensured that there is plenty of butter, yogurt, sour cream , and cream cheese in the region. Most dishes present a more hearty, rich, and filling palate, as food was historically geared more towards sourcing a means to survive rather than enjoyment. However, in the modern political and social climate, dishes from this region have grown to be just as delectable as they are practical.
Eastern Europeans have revolutionized preservation methods of foods such as drying mushrooms, picking vegetables, smoking fish, and salting meats. They even created a handy method of preserving fruits such as pears and apples in alcohol. While now these methods are utilized more for taste rather than ensuring that food lasts through the winter, preserving ingredients and foods has continuously shown the practicality of this region. Many meats are slow-cooked to maintain juiciness and a tender feel.
Goulash, one of Hungary’s most popular delicacies, is as much as national symbol as it is a dish. This stew is traditionally made with inexpensive cuts of meat such as beef or lamb, an assortment of vegetables including tomatoes, and paprika combined with other spices. Often topped with a dollop of sour cream, this rich stew is ideal for a cold winter night. From a bit north, in Poland, comes the Pierogi. These filled dumplings are made with unleavened dough, engulfing either sweet or savory fillings such as potato, cheese, sauerkraut, meat, mushrooms, or fruit.
To many worldwide, food is just seen as a form of nourishment and energy. However, in Eastern Europe, it is something to be celebrated. Residents of this region see meals as a period of grace, sharing, love, and honoring ancient traditions passed down along generations. While history has not been particularly kind to this region, this has not dampened the inhabitants’ spirits, but has rather inspired plenty of traditions in the average household. When attending a housewarming event, it is traditional to gift the host with bread, salt, and wine. The bread is to signify that they will never experience hunger, the salt encourages constant flavor into their lives and reminds them that life may be a struggle at times, and the wine symbolizes that they shall never know thirst and will enjoy good health and great company. Northern and Western Europe have played a large part in the cultural significance of this region. However, the creativity and resourcefulness of these countries is not to be discounted. Some of the most delicious, hearty, and flavorful dishes have come from this area, often discounted by other nations.