Principles of Lithuanian cuisine
The principles of Lithuanian cuisine are defined on the basis of accumulated folk experience and universal values.
The basis for these principles is the approach to local and imported produce, multiculturality, vivid seasonality and the cyclicality that it shapes. The conception of a spiral is used as both conceptual and visual means of expression. Everything is summarized by the main tenets of cooking which work as references towards what should be aimed for while employing them.
The principles of Lithuanian cooking encompass not only local contexts, but also those relevant all over the world: traditions and locality, adaptation to natural conditions, sustainability and collaboration.
THE PEOPLE OF LITHUANIA
The cuisine of peasants, ordinary people, rather than that of landowners or nobility, connects deep understanding of nature, cultural tradition, cunning and inventiveness of the people. The main features of such cuisine are adaptation to natural conditions and resources, sustainability and uniqueness even in relatively close territories.
The ancient Lithuanian cuisine is not final due to its constant shifting and transferring in the flow of time. It is best illustrated by the symbol of a spiral which, compared to the symbol of a wheel, is not static and final. This universal symbol substantiates the research into a wider territory while shaping a new turn.
Today, we should aim for interpretation and modern continuity of local cuisine, not for its restoration or imitation. We should look not for recipes, but for stories within them, stories and guidelines for personal inspiration – and the search for them is not restricted by a specific period or religion.
The choice of produce and its origin is determined by a couple of factors. Back in the old days, the distance which allowed a person to move freely and stock up on the necessary produce would be covered over 1 hour. Anywhere in the world, such territory had to follow the rule of “living off of oneself and fostering communal traditions”. We should stick to the same logic today.
Collaboration on a national and international level will help us understand the typical produce, forageable wild plants, methods of conservation and the circumstances that determined them in folkloric Lithuanian cuisine and agriculture.
The approach towards imported produce is determined by historical territorial changes. In certain periods, Lithuania was either ruled by or associated with multicultural territories, as well as ruling over them, which influenced the daily life of its people. Upon the expansion of worldview, the best experience of other nations was adopted and adapted. This should, as well, be continued now, when it is especially easy to access and accustom the information on traditions or tendencies prevailing elsewhere. The moderate and conscious use of new produce should help emphasize the uniqueness of local produce and bring it, specifically, to the forefront.
Seasonality is understood as a compound result of natural and cultural factors – an interaction of natural rhythm and human lifestyle. The natural seasonality in cuisine was influenced by the rhythm of people’s lives: the most important chores, celebrations, certain difficult living periods – such as the time of winter or war. The use of food was carefully planned, aiming to use the produce as sparingly as possible, conserving both the resources and the force of labor, and to grant survival during important or critical periods of living.
Seasons begin and end at the time of the main natural celebrations. These celebrations come from the distant past when such a way of life developed naturally. They existed in the times of paganism, then remained and got entrenched in the Christian world. Such are the celebrations of the shifts of the year, corresponding to the solstice, equinoxes, the beginning and end of fieldwork.
3 seasons are discerned:
• Spring – Feast of Saint Mark to Midsummer
• Summer – St. John’s Night to All Saints’ Day
• Fall & Winter – All Saints’ Day to Feast of Saint Mark
THE MAIN PRINCIPLES OF COOKING
- The principles are grounded in the tenet of Lithuanian national cuisine – no more than five components in a dish
- Modern technologies are only used as means of assistance in the pursuit of specific results
- A unique taste is accompanied by additional layers of aroma; a harmony of all tastes and textures is maintained
- Great attention is focused on the search for wild tastes
- The importance is placed on the cultural context, which becomes the tool that allows us to create an interesting story about the culture that surrounds us
- Different dishes reflect different concepts – wild tastes, the accentuation of a single ingredient, the cultural context and a new approach towards ordinary produce.
- Other important components are: the element of surprise, playfulness, attractive execution.