About the food of Lithuania

Lithuanian town. Photo by E.Giedraitis

Every country is special. And I don’t mean that in a trite way. Time and time again, this Adventure has shown me how every country has it’s bragging rights. Well, it turns out lil’ ol’ Lithuania is literally the center of Europe.

Not too shabby.

Some French researchers figured it out (read more about how they determined this).

The geographical center of Europe, Lithuania. Photo by Wojsyl.

So, this week, while we dive into the food of Lithuania, let’s imagine ourselves perched atop a picnic blanket on that grey compass which marks this nexus of all things Europe. Since the winters can get very chilly (think sub zero), we’re better off having our picnic in the summer, when it temperatures generally bob around in the 60’s.

The food is definitely Baltic, stuffed to the brim with those cold weather comforts like pickled herring, hearty rye everything (bread/ale/kvass/you-name-it), warming soups, and dumplings. But what stood out to me are Lithuania’s wild mushrooms, grown in the shade of her cool forests. The intense flavor of freshly foraged mushrooms makes even the simplest egg dish divine  [Recipe] , and takes soup from ordinary to epic.

Glūkas forest. Photo by Tomas Čekanavičius

Meals often include some form of pork, whether a roast [Recipe] , bacon, or some sort of smoked goodie. Beet and horseradish slaw makes for an unusual and spicy condiment for this and other entrees [Recipe] . And, of course, everything goes well with potatoes in this part of the world.

To wrap our picnic up? I’d say gingerbread is about the best way to finish off a Lithuanian meal [recipe].

Of course, it would be difficult to get through the long winters there without something to warm the spirit. After all, I read it can snow 8 months of the year. Lithuanians solve this by making boozy honey spirits flavored with an armful of spices, sweet enough to please a honeybee and strong enough to take down a burly bear (Krupnikas) [Recipe] . (Non-drinkers can simply enjoy a strawberry kissel [recipe], which we made a variation of when we cooked Belarus – back when I was still learning how to take a photo… eek!)

Maps and flag courtesy of CIA World Factbook. Dancers by Gareth Saunders. Vilnius, Lithuania by Jan Mehlich.

So that’s about it! What’s your favorite food from this region?

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Comments

  1. Jessica Bennett says:

    I made beets with horseradish slaw when I cooked a Lithuanian meal several years ago. I grew up eating gefilte fish with the jar of bright pink horseradish at my grandparents’ apartment, and I liked it as a young kid. As an older kid, I thought it was too sweet (both the fish and the horseradish). So, I enjoyed making my own version. I only did it once, but you’ve reminded me I should try it again.

  2. I just started following you after I heard you on NPR. I’m sad I missed the first half of your journey, but am looking forward to the second half. Coincidentally, I’m reading a book which takes place (in part) in Lithuania. Between Shades of Gray is a historical fiction story written by Ruta Sepetys.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Now that’s serendipity :) Welcome and feel free to browse through the interactive map for the old posts by region.. maybe a recipe or two will entice you :)

  3. Jessica Bennett says:

    Oh, and stop making excuses for your early photos ;) I think they are fine!

  4. aunty eileen says:

    Found on internet, is it all true??: “10 interesting facts about Lithuania”:

    “1. In 14th century Lithuania was the biggest country in Europe: it included present territories of Belarus and Ukraine, part of Poland and part of Russia.

    2. Lithuania was the last country in Europe to become Christian in 1387.

    3. Lithuania organized a unique protest in 1989 August 23. Residents of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia formed 600 km long row of people holding hands! This event showed the world that Baltic States want to be independent.

    4. Lithuania is the only country in the world having national perfume. “The Scent of Lithuania” is perfume for home. It holds the entire history of our nation…

    5. Lithuanian languages is the oldest living language of the Indo-European family.

    6. Lithuania is the oldest and the largest Baltic State.

    7. Lithuanians first in the world invented way to make vodka from corn.

    8. Lithuania is 1st in the world by the number of hot air balloons per resident. And Vilnius is one of a few European capital where you can fly with hot air balloons.

    9. Lithuania owns the world record of blondes. 1016 blond girls participated in the opening of night club in Lithuania.

    10. A Lithuanian company plans to set up a holiday island in the Maldives run entirely by blondes.”

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Wow – what fun. Thanks for sharing this. Id love to know what the Scent of Lithuania smells like :)

    • Definitely. Being a 100% Lithuanian, born and raised here, in my homeland, I confirm that this is absolute true! :) No jokes, really :))

      Sasha, it is really very inspiring what you are doing and I so glad that my friend showed your site almost a week ago, saying that you’re going to cook a Lithuanian feast. That’s the day I started following your posts :)

      I can say you have pretty amazed me by your choices to cook. Krupnikas is definitely a keeper! I still have some left in my bar (sadly, not a homemade one but store-bought). I wonder how you didn’t consider to try our famous cold beet soup ‘Šaltibarščiai’, that is made from beets, cucumbers, kefir (or sour cream) and a plenty of dill, eaten along with some cooked potatoes. Pork, stuffed with boozy prunes, sounds good to me, though I haven’t heard of it being a part of really traditional Lithuanian meal (and as I work in a food related industry, I think I have heard pretty much :) ).

      And, hands down, I’m going for some beet salad with plenty of spicy horseradish! Looking forward to hear your reviews.

      • Sasha Martin says:

        Hi Egle – thank you for coming by and letting us know more about your country. You got to the Adventure just in time :) I considered trying the beet soup, but it sounded more like a summer dish… would you eat it in the winter, too? If so, I’m a little sad I didn’t make it! I love beets :) The idea for the pork came from The Art of Lithuanian cooking, so it’s strange it’s not on your radar… maybe, as one reader mentioned, a bit more modern? Anyway, I hope you enjoy the rest of the week and stick around even afterwards … take care :)

  5. L. Dyer: The beauty of a blog adventure like this one is that once it’s finished, we can all start over from the beginning and go through the alphabet (for some of us again, for you to complete the trip around the world)! Welcome to the journey!

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Yes, exactly! I love making the dishes again because it brings me back to the country – a chance to “revisit” via stovetop travel.

  6. Lithuania says:

    I happen to be from Lithuania, and I know quite a few of us are looking forward to see what you will create! Love the website and the concept. The list above sounds quite right. There is definitely such a thing as a scent of Lithuania, http://www.lietuvoskvapas.lt/en/the-scent/, it was even made fun of on Colbert report. And, alas, the blonde island, was just a PR stunt of now defunct enterprise (which existed and was called O-la-la girls and they sold everything from cola and pizza to computers).

    I also read Ruta Sepetys book and liked it a lot, especially because a number of my family members were deported to Siberia and went through similar stuff. Highly recommend it!

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Fun! I’m so glad you’ve been following along :) The menu will be up tomorrow… as for me, I’m looking forward to reading about the scent and checking out the book.

  7. Freshly foraged mushrooms sound amazing. So far I have been nervous of collecting myself. There are mushrooms everywhere in the Normandy forests. You can take your collected mushrooms to the local pharmacy and they will tell you which ones you can eat.
    http://chaumierelesiris.com/tag/wild-mushrooms/

    • Jessica Bennett says:

      What a service- to be able to take your mushrooms to be identified at the pharmacy! If I’m ever in the area, I’d make a special hike just to try that (assuming I’d have a way to prepare them for dinner after).

    • Sasha Martin says:

      I would do it if I had a resource to check my pickings… or an expert friend to bring along… I think it would be super fun!

  8. My uncle is moving to Lithuania soon for his job, he asked to be transferred there. He has visited several times and fell in love with the country…so I am interested in reading about it.

  9. So nice to see post about my country :)

  10. Very nice, brought back lots of memories of my mother. One thing, apples are/were a staple in alot of the cooking.
    My Mom’s beet soup was the best as was the Krupnikas. She and her sisters were excellent cooks, and they all seemed to know how to make everything; esp. wines and naturally krupnikas which was enjoyed whenever the family gathered to celebrate. Thank you again.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Karen, so wonderful that you grew up in a home with passionate cooks. Your mom and her sisters sound like they were a fantastic team… Thanks for sharing a bit of your traditions with us.

  11. I’m really enjoying the design and layout of
    your blog. It’s a very easy on the eyes which
    makes it much more enjoyable for me to come here and visit more often. Did you hire out a developer to create your theme?
    Great work!

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