Grandma makes butter


   Why does this print depict an older woman, and not a young girl, making butter?

   Here the artist takes into account the life experience of the grandmother, who from many years of practice, acquired the skill to make butter of just the right taste, color, and fragrance. In the Lemko kitchen, butter was not only the basic addition to various dishes, but most important of all a natural source of calories, a critical ingredient for a person's well-being. Preparations for the butter making process itself did not differ from village to village. The decisive factor was what was used at the time to feed the cattle, and where they were taken to graze. By the forest there were areas where "wild garlic" grew, which the cows liked, but which gave the milk, butter and cheese an unpleasant taste. For this the herdsman was always punished, sometimes even severely. Also of great importance was the proper storage of milk, from the time of milking till the formation of heavy cream. This was the responsibility of the lady of the house. But there were times when butter even made by an experienced housewife would not turn out properly, and she would blame her failure on the envious eyes of a neighbor's wife, "uroky" * would be mentioned.

   Highly admired was the Lemkos' success in raising cattle - they were significantly ahead of their neighbors from the plains. The soil in the hills was rich in lime, thus yielding a large amount of red clover, and in turn, high quality hay.

   It was here, before anywhere else, that artificial fertilizers were put to use, yielding a threefold return on the initial capital investment.

   It was difficult to sell milk, but good butter and cheese could be sold at the markets of Krynitsia, Hrybiv, or Noviy Sanch, although at very low prices. During WW II, quotas [set by the German authorities] were excessive and mandatory, but farmers fulfilled their obligations, while at the same time providing for their family. The war brought a lot of unhappiness and bitterness, but nobody starved, and Lemkos learned new ways of running farms, especially members of the younger generation, who having returned from [forced labor in] Germany, expected a much brighter future. Superstitions and "uroky"* disappeared, and it looked as if a new reality was settling in. Unfortunately, this did not happen.

   During my life I have tasted butter from many a butter "churner" throughout the world, but never have I eaten butter as tasty and fragrant as that from my own cows, over which I kept watchful eye on my native Verkh. To this day I can remember the smell of lunches that were packed for me as a herdsman - a slice of bread and a scoop of freshly made butter, wrapped by my mother in a cabbage leaf.

*     uroky    - magic "spells" cast by an evil witch or thy neighbor's wife.

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Copyright © 1997 Jon W. Madzelan
This Home Page was created on Tuesday, June 17, 1997
Most recent revision Wednesday, January 14, 1998