EASTER – WHAT DID IT TASTE LIKE WHEN SILESIA WAS SCHLESIEN?
With this text we want to stimulate your appetite. Both for Easter and "spiritual" food. The text you will find below by Professor Joanna Nowosielska-Sobel and Dr Grzegorz Sobel is part of the latest University Review, the first one in 2021. The Review, to make it more flavoursome, will also change slightly. With the articles presented there, we want to reach not only the Wrocław University community but also the inhabitants of Wrocław and Lower Silesia. Therefore, there will be more content concerning the region or our research outside the walls of the university. For now, we invite you to join us at the table...
The Lenten period was marked by modesty in diet only among Lower Silesian Catholics. To a certain extent, this was also reflected in the culinary offer of most eating places in towns and villages. In the 19th and 20th centuries, however, whoever fancied a sausage or a pork knuckle with beer did not have to look for them long. With Holy Week came a time for reflection and people no longer indulged themselves to such an extent.
On the Monday after Palm Sunday, known as “blue Monday”, poppy-seed noodles were prepared for lunch. On Tuesday, known as ‘yellow Tuesday’, boiled eggs were the standard in many households. Thursday, known as “green Thursday” was dominated by a Lenten soup (grüne Suppe). Depending on the season, it was made from sorrel, spinach, dandelion or nettle with lots of chive. In many households honey was also eaten on this day, as it was believed to it will protect from illnesses. Good Friday (Karfreitag) was for Catholics a day of strict fasting, for Protestants the most important religious holiday. Catholics built then Lord’s Tombs in their temples, so eagerly visited by crowds of believers. Following the customs of the Middle Ages, Passion plays were often performed. On Easter Saturday morning the Easter fire was lit in churches and water was blessed, and in the evening people gathered for the Resurrection Mass.
Saturday afternoon was also full of work in the kitchen, as the Easter menu was being prepared. In Łużyce, colourful, richly decorated Easter eggs were made. Decorated eggs could also be found in other parts of Silesia, including Wrocław, although they were not as artistically sophisticated as in the above-mentioned region. The most beautifully decorated ones were used as nice presents to give to relatives and friends during Easter, as they invariably symbolised the Resurrection and the rebirth of life.
Easter Sunday, apart from its religious dimension, was also marked by family gatherings. The pleasures of the table, however, began with dinner. The opening meal was the Easter soup (Ostersuppe), or broth of all kinds. Depending on local or family tradition, it was made with beef, lamb or even pigeon stock. Women’s magazines, however, encouraged ladies to be creative and make other soups, such as rhubarb, almond, crab or even apple and wine. The second course was dominated by roast lamb or pork, served with potatoes and green salad. For dessert, besides cakes, puddings and compotes were also served.
On Easter Monday, the same food was usually eaten as the day before, but in the morning the village youths had a lot of fun – young men would sneak into the houses of their neighbours, waking up householders who had been asleep for too long by smacking them with willow. Young women were particularly targeted, with water.
Although Easter in old Wrocław was not as richly decorated as Christmas, the fact remained that it was an important time to meet with relatives. It was appreciated more and more together with the intensely changing reality of life, which was subjected to civilization and modernization transformations particularly distinct at the turn of the 19th and 20th century.
You can find the whole text and other articles in the latest University Review here.