The first bite is the best one. Once you cut through smooth dough, juice from boiled strawberries leaks out and mixes with melted butter, sugar and cottage cheese and surrounds the whole dumpling.
Oh, so you do not like sweets? Never mind, how about a slice of roasted pork together with stewed cabbage and sliced potato or bread dumplings? Does it make your mouth water? Then come to visit Europe, particularly the country right in its center.
Compared with the U.S., Czech cuisine is less affected by international influences. Older generations in my home country still tend to cook in a traditional way. Visiting your grandma for a big Sunday lunch, you may be looking forward to tasting roasted sirloin in sour cream sauce made from stewed carrot, celeriac and onion with bread dumplings, stuffed meat roll filled with sausages, pickles and boiled eggs served with rice or goulash, and chopped pieces of beef in paper sauce. Dense sauces with sour cream are generally popular. You can choose from many great variations such as mushroom sauce, dill sauce or tomato sauce.
What is unique for Czech cuisine is the presence of hot, sweet meals served as a main dish. Apart from sweet dumplings filled with strawberries, plums or apricots, Czech people like semolina porridge and zemlovka, which is mixture of sliced rolls and apples baked with raisins and a bit of cinnamon.
Generally, Czech women cook and bake at home a lot. Every single weekend my mother spends the whole morning in the kitchen roasting, stewing, stirring. So do my aunts and grandmas. Knowing I can hardly boil an egg, I hope my boyfriend does not have high expectations for our future life together.
Moreover, we eat in a different way than Americans do. Breakfast usually consists of almost the same food as dinner – bread or rolls with butter, cheese, ham, salami and vegetables. The biggest meal is lunch in the middle of the day. Most of the people normally start with a bowl of soup and continue with a portion of meat with potatoes, rice or pasta as a side dish.
So, when I was eating in the Rot for the first time I was surprised. People were combining a little bit of humus, pizza and peach compote on their plates at any time of the day, drinking gallons of milk and finishing with dessert after almost every single meal. Compared to my home country, the food also seemed to be generally sweeter and greasier.
I have adopted some of these habits now that I’ve been here at Goshen College for half a year. Spicy Korean beef fights for the best spot on my plate with eggplant caneloni and cottage. Soup does not precede my main dish anymore.
While I miss especially fresh bread and other baked goods, I admire American peanut butter and all the ways people here eat it. Peanut butter on toast. Peanut butter with bananas. As a smooth American ice cream easily beats out any Czech water based one, peanut butter ice cream with chocolate chips seems to be the heaven on Earth for me.
Czech and American cuisines are different. However, both Czech people and Americans love good food and they always enjoy having a meal with their friends and families. Specific cuisine then serves as a means of connection to people all around the world. Bon appetit!