Food

Food in Daily Life. The traditional Czech diet may be considered heavy, with an emphasis on meat, potatoes, and dumplings and the use of substantial amounts of animal fats, butter, and cream. Meats— primarily pork, beef, poultry, and organ meats such as liver, kidneys, brains, and sweetbreads—are frequently prepared with gravy and eaten with potatoes or dumplings ( knedlík , pl. knedlíky ). Soups are an important part of the noon meal. Potato and tripe soup are favorites, as well as beef or chicken broth with tiny liver or marrow dumplings. The most commonly used vegetables are carrots, peas, and cabbage. Salads were eaten only seasonally until recent years.

Czechs have always enjoyed sweets. The most common are fruit dumplings (made with plums or, in winter, preserved apricots) served with grated farmer cheese and bread crumbs browned in butter, with sugar sprinkled on top. Dumplings often are served as a meal. Popular sweet baked goods include buchty (sing. buchta ), small, roughly rectangular yeast buns with a filling of jam or preserves; koláče (sing. koláč ), small cakes made of white flour with an indentation on the surface for a filling of poppy seeds, plum jam, or sweetened farmer cheese; a semisweet cake ( bábovka ) made of yeast dough and baked in a fluted tube pan; thin pancakes spread with jam, rolled, and topped with powdered sugar ( palačinky ); small raised pancakes ( lívance ); and apple strudel ( jablkovýzávin or štrúdl ).

The national beverage is beer ( pivo ); some good domestic wines are produced in Moravia. The domestic plum brandy is called slivovice (slivovitz).

Especially during the past ten to twenty years, marked changes have occurred in the Czech diet. More fresh vegetables are eaten year-round by those who can afford imported food; vegetable shortenings, oils, and margarine are replacing animal fats; and a variety of mixes are used to prepare soups and dumplings. What people eat today is greatly influenced by what they can afford: good cuts of beef and pork are expensive, but poultry is much more affordable.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. A typical Sunday dinner menu continues to be svíčková (known in English by the German name sauerbraten ): fillet of beef marinated in vinegar and spices before roasting, served with a rich sour-cream sauce and almost always accompanied by dumplings. Also popular for special meals is roast duck, pork, or goose with dumplings and sauerkraut. On Christmas Eve, nearly the entire country eats the traditional breaded and fried carp, and on Christmas Day, roast turkey is found on many tables.