The Traditional Christmas Meal
On the modern Christmas Eve dining table of today in this country you will more than likely find fried carp as well as cold potato salad which is quite a speciality unique to the Czechs, you won't be finding it done like this in any other country. The composition of this Christmas dish would still be very recognizable to those who lived in olden times, however theirs was still quite different from today. Therefore let's take a look now together what they really ate in the era of our great, great grandmothers. The meal on the table should have had 9 dishes, or depending on the region and its habits maybe 10 or even as many as 12. The first course was of Wafers which may have been baked with honey, with garlic, or maybe even with rose-hip or other herbs, which was followed by the Soup heavily thickened most usually with wild mushrooms, but also very likely to be champignons, peas or lentils. A popular method was to prepare it in the form of a unique Czech method named Black Jakub of cooked groats, garlic, herbs, lard, and mushroom. It was the mushrooms which would cause the familiar colour change resulting in the deep black colour and even originated the popular rhyme Black Mushroom, Oily Mouth....or on the Czech tongue Cerny Kuba, Mastna Huba. Following this they ate Bread topping with garlic, porridge which came in three different forms namely from millet, from grits, and from peas. The porridge thick and heavy symbolized abundance and plenty.
They also prepared several dishes from flour some of which were cooked and others which were baked. You would also find dried fruits on the table, one in particular which was called 'Music' was made from various hot-stirred fruits among them honey, nuts and apples. Poppy, rose-hip, garlic, barley, lentils, beans, bread, cabbage and honey had the power of protection ascribed to them therefore all these foods were given also to farm animals in the form of dough or mixed up in their gruel. On the other hand something like fish was altogether more rarely found on the table and usually confined to those regions where fish farming was more common or else just among the more affluent families. The habit of eating carp really didn't become widespread till the the beginning of the 19th century. The range of foods for Christmas Eve was very influenced and determined by the character of the region whether it was an agricultural one, a wine producing one, or one specialized in fruit production or fish farming.
The Traditional Christmas Meal in the City - a History.
In the middle of the 19th century the composition of the Christmas dining table appeared basically as follows...the first course was one of Fish Soup, after which a dish went around the guests all of whom helped themselves to a small pancake which were topped with some caviar, or pieces of smoked salmon, eel, or sardines, black fish with dumplings, fried carp with strips of horseradish, or fruit preserve, roasted otter with sauce, roasted snail, and finally crepes and sweet afters. As you can see for yourself townspeople during their Christmas evening didn't skimp on anything. Wine was drunk, or perhaps beer and punch too.
St. Havel Church
View from Nebozizek
"I dislike feeling at home when I am abroad" - George Bernard Shaw