2018, when Lithuania is celebrating its 100th birthday, is THE time to visit and re-explore the country you would be surprised how many people do not know. And I can tell you one thing, whatever your stereotypes and expectations for this ex-Soviet country are, just forget it, because Lithuania is far more interesting, than people might think.
So say ‘happy birthday’ to Lithuania by learning a tiny bit more about this mysterious land of forest and swamps, visit it and share the word with your family and friends. Let me seduce you with the stories and pictures but once you come and see it by yourself, I promise, you will not be disappointed.
- Black bread. Lithuanians are proud of three things in their life: Lithuanian language, Lithuanian history and Lithuanian black bread. If you do not believe me, ask any other Lithuanian you know. We have bread for as long as history remembers and it became more than food, it is part of the culture itself. During pagan times we even had a god dedicated to bread. People would sacrifice bread to Gods, sacrifice it to mother Earth before spring seeding, during the harvesting and after the season is gone. So obviously it was valued. A lot of fairy tales are about bread, children in family and school are thought to value the everyday bread, respect it, do not throw it away, do not let it fall on the ground. It is considered to be a great sin to throw bread to garbage.
- Apple cheese (obuolių sūris). You would ask: what is this animal? And you would be very right to wonder because Lithuanians are the only ones that could make a dairy product out of an apple. Actually it is a dessert which is a culinary heritage in Lithuania and a small part in Poland. Apple cheese can be only hand made, the process is long and requires a lot of patience of a cook. It takes about 1-1,5 months to make this dessert. Out of 5kg of apples you could make about 1kg of cheese.
But actually it used to be not a common food. It requires sugar and honey, which used to be expensive so only noblemen were able to enjoy it. The first time the recipe of apple cheese was mentioned in 17th century, by a cook of Radvila family.
- Šakotis. It is the most funky looking cake in the world! And it is another traditional sweet of Lithuania. The recipe of Šakotis came from Germany, similar cakes were known since 15th century. It was usually baked in monasteries and the recipes were kept in a secret. It reached Lithuania around 20th century. Now there are about 60 different recipe of Šakotis and it looks a tiny bit cooler than German version called baumkuchen (which is basically a cylinder…). Our cake looks like a small Christmas tree and we are very proud of it.
- Mushroom cookies (Grybukai). Why do we call our desserts in a strange way? Don’t ask, I don’t know. But these cookies are absolutely the best souvenirs you could bring anyone from Lithuania. I basically grew up with my grandmother baking them for Christmas and I do not imagine any family gathering without them. The truth is that they are fairly easy to make, the only trick is the shape of a mushroom that gives jazz to it.
- Curd snack (varškės sūrelis). Another dessert as we eat only sweet things. This is a culinary business card of Baltic countries. If you go to any supermarket, anywhere in Lithuania, half of the dairy section would be hundreds of different curd snacks. They are extremely popular and vary in tasted, shapes, colors or anything else you can imagine.
Lithuania could introduce you to a new culinary universe if you let yourself be surprised by new and unusual tastes. We love dairy products, honey, fresh berries and mushrooms. Some other ideas of what to eat (or drink) in Lithuania:
- Try beer. I heard it is one of the best beers you could find in Europe. But, please, don’t tell it to Germans and Czechs.
- White curd cheese. Fresh and comes in hundreds of tastes.
- Kvass (gira) is similar as beer BUT it is not an alcohol. Also, depending on the brewery could be more sweet.
- Mead (midus) is alcohol beverage made from honey.
- Šaltibarščiai, or better known as a pink soup, is the best food you could be eating in a hot summer day.
- Cepelinai. When I tell people it is meat/curd/mushrooms inside a potato, they imagine a very different thing and then I have to explain how do people actually make them.