Our daily bread


   A long time ago, maybe centuries ago, someone uttered these words of great wisdom: "wherever there is bread and water, there can be no famine". In the Carpathians, especially in Lemkivshchyna, even small children knew this saying. We can read just about everything in the history of Lemkivshchyna, but there is no mention of famine, especially the famine that occurred in the 20th century. But those Lemkos, who after WW II were resettled from "poor" Lemkivshchyna to the most fertile soil in Europe, i.e., to Ukraine, faced death from starvation.

   What was the cause of this?

   It is not the fertility of the soil that generates the well being of mankind, but the cultural development of the people, especially the prevailing ruling system.

   A pious and industrious Lemko dedicated his existence to his native soil and cherished it above all other ideals in the world. Lemkos had a tough time producing bread from an infertile soil, which is why they respect it. Bread was considered to be holy, a gift from God, gift to which we must accord the highest respect.

   In the same way, Lemkos honored their farmland, and as a community protected it from all harm. Even during WW II there was an unwritten law: if a farmer rode home in his wagon loaded with freshly harvested sheaves of grain, and lost a few spikes called "kolosky" along the rocky road, then those who traveled down this road were obligated either to pick them up for themselves, or leave them on the side of the road, so they would not be trampled upon.

   Wheat and rye (spring and winter varieties) were planted, beardless spring barley called "orkish", regular barley and the winter variety which is tetrahedral (four-sided) in shape, called "pshanopsha". Periodically one comes across claims in Ukrainian literature that Lemkos lived exclusively on bread made from oats, but that just is not true. Only in the highest mountains of Lemkivshchyna was there no wheat or rye planted, but there were very few such villages. Only in these villages was bread baked from oats flour, so called "adzymka", but more often oat grain was bartered for rye and wheat at local markets.

   A delicious and nutritious "keselitsa"1 was also made from oats, and more recently even oats grain cereal ("vivsiany krupy" 2), with the hard outer shell or husk removed.

   There was a specialized mill for grinding oats into cereal in the village of Losyeh, near Krynitsia 3. Bread was also made from barley and "orkish", to which potatoes were added. This type of bread, fresh from the oven, is also very delicious. The typical loaf of bread and "knish" 4was made of sourdough, except for "adzimka" 5 and "opalky", which were unleavened.

1 "keselitsa" - thin soup made from oats.
Recipe: take 1 kg of oats and mill with shell (husk) on [ oatmeal is a good substitute ], then add yeast or bread starter ("kvasok") dough left from previous bread making. Add 3 liters of warm water to each litter of oat flour. Keep it covered for 8 - 10 hrs in a warm place. Following the fermentation process, strain it through a sieve (screen), in order to remove oat shell, and cook it on medium heat. Add salt, caraway seed, and fat (bacon, oil or butter) to your taste. During lent keselytsia is prepared with the flax oil, while on other days it is served with bacon or butter. It is mostly consumed with a side dish of potatoes.

2 "vivsiany krupy" - oats grain cereal cooked and eaten with milk, or it was fried with bacon and flax oil.

3 "Losyeh, near Krynitsia" - this is the second Losyeh, sometimes referred to as "small" Losyeh. The first Losyeh, sometimes called the "BIG" Losyeh is located near Horlytsi.

4 "knish" - barley bread with potato and sour cream mixture on top

5 "adzymka" - this type of bread is made from the oats flour, without the benefit of fermentation by "kvasok" (bread starter with yeast). This is a leaven process and is similar to Italian pizza making. Adzymka can be made of any flour and is called by such names as "Palanta", "Opavok" or "Pidpavok". They can be made quickly since the fermentation process is omitted.

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Copyright © 1997 Jon W. Madzelan
This Home Page was created on Tuesday, June 17, 1997
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