A piece of Belarus cuisine history
Belarusian cuisine originated in pagan times. It has along rich history and centuries of traditions.
Belarusions did not have a large variety of produce, but they could create unique cuisine due to their fantasy and curiosity. The Belarusians got new dishes by mixing incompatible at first sight products, by using several methods of cooking in one recipe. Very often any particular culinary fashion from other (uisine was a basis for a new Belarusian dish. And gradually the recipe of such a dish was changed under the influence of traditional methods of cooking and the availability of necessary ingredients.
Consequently, different cuisines (Russian, Ukraine, Lithuanian, Polish, German, Italian and Jewish) influenced the formation of Belarusian culinary traditions. And for sure in national cuisine you can find a great deal of traditional Belarusian dishes.
Thus, which food was common for the Belarusians?
These are cereals (oats, rye, barley and buckwheat). Later, in the second half of the 19th century wheat was used.
Bean products: peas, kidney beans and broad beans.
Milk and cultured milk foods. Cheese.
Fish. In particular we should mention fresh-water fish, as on the territory of Belarus there are many rivers, lakes and other reservoirs. But there was also imported sea-fish.
Forest foods — berries, mushrooms, edible parts of native plants.
Meat. Pork was the most popular meat, then lamb, beef and veal. A modern Belarusian prefers pork and beef, forgetting about old traditions of eating lamb.
Poultry: Chickens, geese and wild fowl. Before the 20th century the breeding and using of geese was widely spread. So in old recipes you can find these barn-door fowl. In present time, people prefer chicken.
In Belarusian cuisine chicken eggs are widely used.
Vegetables. From olden times the Belarusians paid great attention to vegetable dishes. Generally it was connected with the Christian religion, which dictated to observe a strict fast. So there were 192-210 fasting-days in a year. In old times the Belarusians grew cabbage, beetroot, cucumbers, radish, turnip, pumpkin, bush pumpkins, carrot, onion, garlic, later (the end of 18 — 19 century) potatoes, tomatoes and maize appeared. Potatoes made a culinary revolution on Belarusian menu’s. The Belarusians fell in love with potatoes and called it “the second bread”.
It is difficult to find such a diversity of potato dishes in other cuisines. It is connected with the fact that on the territory of Belarus due to good climatic conditions there is a great deal of starch in potato which is responsible for tastiness. Draniki — a familiar Belarusian cuisine dish consisting of potato, onion and salt — can be prepared only from local variety of this root crop.
Spices are used not in a large amount in Belarusian cuisine. The Belarusians prefer a natural taste of products. The most popular spices in national dishes are: caraway seeds, coriander, dill, black pepper, cloves, and canella. Since old times there is a tradition to put salt and pepper on a table.
Traditional Belarusian spirits are worthy of special attention (beer, kram-bambulya, pomerancevka, chrenovyha and of course bathtub gin (samogonka), different liqueurs and wines. From soft drinks we recommend to taste sbiten, rye beer, compotes and fruit-drinks.
Belarusian dishes are well-balanced and healthy. It is not for nothing that in our country a slim lady was an ideal of beauty in comparison with our neighbour’s who preferred young ladies with ample curves. You need to know not only how to cook a particular dish but also a special time of eating if you want to eat well or to become slim. For example, if you cook “draniki” only for breakfast, you will gain only a tasty meal and a good mood, but not extra kilograms.
The Belarusians are very hospitable and generous people who are always happy to meet guests. There are a lot of legends about Slavic hospitality, and you will fully realize this when you come to this marvelous land — the Republic of Belarus. And dishes from Belarusian cuisine won’t leave you un fazed; they will steal a way into your heart and stomach. The Belarusians say “Smachna vam esti” (Have a good appetite). Welcome to Belarus!