slovakia

Bryndzové Halušky: Slovak potato dumplings with sheep cheese

Bryndzové Halušky, Slovak sheep cheese dumplings, gluten free variation - Almost Bananas

Ask any Slovak and they will tell you that bryndzové halušky is the national dish. Potato ‘dumplings’ are smothered in a sheep cheese, rather like soft feta, and topped with a good dose of bacon (don’t forget the drippings!).

The word ‘dumpling’ covers a multitude of meanings. As a child, a dumpling meant a puffy floury ball in soup or stew from my mom or a smooth more condensed drop from my dad.

I knew that dumplings covered everything from won tons to pierogies, but I thought that dumplings had to be boiled. According to Wikipedia, dumplings consist of some sort of dough, often wrapped around a filling, and can be boiled, steamed, or even baked. Well, that’s broad.  Click to continue reading

Slovak Roast Goose (or Duck)

Slovak Roast Goose (or Duck) at Almost Bananas

Roast goose and roast duck are common meals in the fall and winter in Slovakia. Through the fall, restaurants hang signs declaring “Husacie Hody!” or “Kačacie Hody!” – Goose Feast! Duck Feast! The word hody has connotations of fall or of an originally religious event of the feast of the local church.

Commonly served with roast goose or duck, or a goose-duck breed as my mother in law often does, is lokše, Slovak potato flatbread. Lokše is basically mashed potatoes with a little flour (including gluten-free flour, as the potatoes hold it together), rolled flat and cooked on a dry skillet. The lokše are then generously brushed with the fat from the goose or duck, although butter or lard can work as well. Click to continue reading

What I learned reading about Slovak Jews

What I learned reading about Slovak Jews - Almost BananasFor the last month I’ve been busy reading 21 books in English about Slovakia – read the reviews and enter the giveaway here – and six of those books were about Jews during WWII.

Of course we learned about the horrors of WWII in school, of racism and concentration camps. Nazi soldiers often come up in ethical discussions as The Ultimate Evil That Has Existed, i.e. “If you were faced with Nazi soldiers, would x action still be unacceptable?”

But growing up in Canada, the idea of war was so far away. We keep every Remembrance Day, maybe heard stories from grandparents or read a historical fiction novel. It seems closer in Slovakia, to some degree, just because fighting was on this soil. People still go metal detecting in the hills behind our home, looking for war artefacts. It seems strange that those quiet hills, perhaps even some of the same trees, saw such violence and action. When in the Low Tatras, a memorial to partisans killed high up in the mountain seemed so startling.

Call me naive, but I had this idea that the Nazis were the bad guys, Jew and other targeted groups were the victims, and everybody else was just kind of didn’t know what was going on.  Click to continue reading

21 Books in English about Slovakia

21 books about Slovakia in English at Almost Bananas

Almost Bananas presents…(drumroll)…21 books in English set in Slovakia, including 10 books to giveaway (giveaway over, look out for next year’s)!

I’m so excited to finally tell you about this project I’ve been working on.

It started with me wondering if there was a book in English that I could give friends and family so that they could understand Slovakia a little more. There isn’t much in English about Slovakia, but after some digging I found these 21 books. If anybody knows of more, let me know and I’ll include them in a future list.

I had a few criteria. I wanted stories, real or fiction, thus excluding travel books, textbook type history, and poetry. And I wanted them to be set in Slovakia or the Slovak side of Czechoslovakia (with one exception).

If you want to understand more about Slovakia, give a gift, or just like to read, then this list is for you. (psst…Christmas is quickly approaching) Make sure to scroll down to the bottom in order to enter the giveaway!

Even though I have already lived here for over a decade, I learned so so much, both about Slovakia’s history and people. I admit that I’m not a history buff – reading dry history text puts me to sleep (literally, this was my trick in college if I had insomnia. Worked every time). But in the context of a story or a person’s experience, a country’s character and history come alive even if the actual storyline is fictional.

The following books are divided into the following genres:

Youth – WWII (Slovak Jews) – Memoirs – Fiction – Slovak Literature  Click to continue reading

Slovak Roast Rabbit

Slovak Roast Rabbt, juicy baked rabbit recipe on Almost Bananas

Rabbit used to be a much more commonly eaten meat in Slovakia, when most people kept a pig, rabbits, and chickens in their backyard. Today it is still eaten although not as much.

I know, rabbits are these soft cuddly sweet animals. Well, sometimes sweet. My in laws once had their rabbits stolen except for one, and when my husband opened the door he quickly learned why as the rabbit lunged toward him with teeth bared and claws at the ready.  Click to continue reading

Orešanský Rínek: a fall celebration

Slovak traditional costumes - Almost Bananas blog

A while back a town nearby, Horné Orešany, had a “rinek”, which involved music, dancing, and lots of food.

There are a number of different types of celebrations in the fall, for example, vinobranie celebrates wine. While considerably bigger, the Trnava jarmok is similar to the rinek. Friends tell me that ‘rinek’ and ‘jarmok’ are mostly just dialect differences. Rinek comes from ‘ring-kruh’, both German and Slovak for circle, because tables were placed in a circle as they sold their wares, while jarmok comes from ‘jahr markt’, yearly market in German.

Play of a traditional Slovak wedding - Almost Bananas blog

This year’s rinek had a wedding theme. The entertainment consisted of a play in which the music and dance acts were incorporated. Above, a woman throws her hands up as a friend relates how useless her husband is in preparing for the wedding (if I recall correctly).  Click to continue reading

Lokše: Slovak Potato Flatbread (regular and gluten-free)

Lokše: Slovak Potato Flatbread (regular and gluten-free)

lokse-1-words

A classic Slovak food, especially through the fall and winter, is lokše. Made mostly of potatoes, these are always at markets with various fillings. During the fall they are often served with duck or goose – and the duck or goose fat. And because it’s the potatoes that hold the flatbread together, they are a perfect candidate for making gluten-free.

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Cherry Blossoms in the Morning Sun (and other photos of spring)

Cherry Blossoms in Morning Sun in Slovakia - Almost Bananas

Spring is my favourite season in western Slovakia. The sun starts showing itself again, new signs of plant life begin to appear. Bear garlic, the European version of ramps, carpets the forest. And the trees burst into bloom.

March was a month of chicken pox here, and we limped into Easter. On Palm Sunday, instead of palms we use branches of pussy willows at the church.

Pussy Willows - Almost Bananas

Easter Sunday lunch is, of course, rezne (schnitzel) – deep fried breaded cutlets. My oldest daughter loves to cook, here she helps her dad. Hammered pork (sometimes chicken) is dipped first in finely ground flour, then beaten eggs, and then breadcrumbs before being deep fried.

Making schnitzel - Almost Bananas

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Winter Markets, Fog, and Misc. (Winter 2015/16 photos)

Winter in the Small Carpathians of Slovakia

Now that spring has finally come, at least to my town, I’m finally posting photos from the winter. I blame it on my family genes, always late for everything.

November begins with one of my favourite traditions, visiting the graveyards and honouring the dead. I can’t even come close to capturing the atmosphere. I’ve written about it before: Nov. 1, All Saints Day

All Saints Day in Slovakia

All Saints Day in Slovakia

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Fašiangy: Slovak Carnival is a party time

Fasiangy: Slovak Carnival is time to party

Leftover from observance of Christian seasons, fašiangy is the time between the end of the Christmas season (January 6) and the beginning of Lent. Basically, it’s party time. It’s the time to indulge in rich foods and have fun before the austerity of Lent. This year, we went to a folklore zabava, a family dance in folklore style that was amazing (read on for a picture of me in kroj below).

For children, one day towards the end of the season is designated for dressing up in costumes, usually at school or pre-school. Slovak kids (including my own) don’t know much about Halloween but get excited for to dress up for Karnival.

For adults, fašiangy marks the ball season. Formal dances are planned in smaller towns and cities alike, attended by men in suit and tie and women in uber fancy dresses. Slovaks dance into the not-so-wee hours of the morning, to live or DJed music. There are certain songs that are played every time, that everybody loves and sings along to. Most of them are hits from the 70’s and 80’s. There are usually at least two meals, plus snacks (read here for how much food a Slovak party must have).

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