Belarusian cuisine originated in pagan times. It has a long and rich history and centuries traditions.
The Belarusian multipack was not too diversified. But the Belarusians could create a 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 cuisine 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 19 century wheat was used.
Bean products: pea, kidney bean, bobs.
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 on the first place in usage, then lamb, beef and veal. A modern Belarusian prefers pork and beef, forgetting about ancient traditions of eating lamb.
Poultry meat. These are chickens, geese, wild fowls. Before the 20 century a breeding and using of geese was widely spread. So in ancient recipes you can find these barn-door fowl. In a present day people prefer chicken meat.
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 religious, which dictated to observe a strict fast. So there were 192-210 fasting-days in a year. Anciently the Belarusians grew cabbages, beet, 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 in Belarusian menu. 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: cumin, coriander, dill, black pepper, cloves, and canella. Since ancient times there is a tradition to put salt and pepper on a table.
There are no desserts as such in Belarusian cuisine. Berries, fruits and honey replaced them.
Traditional Belarusian spirits are worthy of special attention (beer, krambambulya, 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 health. It is not for nothing that in our country a slim lady was an ideal of beauty in comparison with our neighbors 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 on breakfast, you will gain only a tasty meal and 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 come to this marvelous land – the Republic of Belarus. And dishes from Belarusian cuisine won’t leave you unfazed; they will steal a way into your heart and stomach. The Belarusians say «Smachna vam esti» (Have a good appetite). Welcome to Belarus!
Elena Mikulchik, belarusian cuisine expert.