Slovenski etnografski muzej

Številka revije 
Etnolog 24 (2014)
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Food and celebrations: meat and meat dishes in festive menus in Slovenia

Meat dishes were an important part of festive menus, in particular on calendar holidays, because they distinguished holidays from ordinary days and symbolised abundance. In the past, the diet of most of the population of Slovenia was indeed deficient and unvaried. The celebration of the major winter calendar holidays - Christmas, New Year's Eve, New Year, and Carnival - was connected with the consumption of meat dishes prepared with fresh pork or meat products from home slaughtering, which replaced the usual daily consumption of heavily larded dishes and dishes prepared with the addition of smoked pork. Pigs were therefore usually slaughtered in the pre-Christmas period. Even today home slaughtering continues to be the biggest domestic event of the year in the Slovene countryside. The event requires a lot of preparation, engaging the entire family, and in the past children were even exempted from school on the day of home slaughtering. Neighbours and relatives assisted in the activities, and in some places it was even customary for the whole village to participate. Before the Second World War, it was generally believed that a specific piece of pork was meant for every holiday. A housewife in the Slovene countryside had to cook half a pork head on Maundy Thursday, the second half on the eve of Shrovetide, the shoulders and hams on Easter Sunday, the so-called "rabbit" (part of the breastbone, ribs, and belly) or the shoulders on Whitsun, and so on for all the other calendar holidays. The legs were usually saved for the threshers. The meat prepared on holidays was usually roasted. In addition to meat soups % beef, pork, or chicken soup - festive menus often included various roasts - e.g. pork, bacon-wrapped tenderloin roast, roast beef, or veal roasts. Roasting meat in one piece is a more demanding and expensive way of cooking, as the juices released from the meat are lost in this way, while they are preserved when boiling meat and can be used for tasty soups. An even more demanding and expensive way of preparing meat is to fry battered pieces of meat, e.g. steaks or pieces of poultry, and therefore most Slovene families rarely used this method before the Second World War, while it was quite common in the bourgeois cuisine. Since most families in Slovenia rarely ate meat dishes on working days, they were particularly popular and coveted on holidays. Meat dishes occupied the central place in festive menus both by their status and the way of cooking them. Beside sweet farinaceous dishes, e.g. potica, Bundt cake and štruklji (rolled dumplings), meat dishes signified festive food and distinguished it from everyday food. They symbolised the abundance and affluence family communities fancied on holidays.