Thursday, 3 April 2008

The Czech cuisine?

Well, this family cooks like it's cooked for generations. Their kitchen at the Mill near Cesky Krumlov has no electric stoves or kettles, or any other modern gadgets; no gas either, just an old-fashioned, traditional, wood-fired, ceramic-tiled stove that dominates the room and serves to heat the house, bake bread and cook meals, and a drying rack over it for clothes and herbs of all sorts. In fact these kind of stoves even have, at the back of them, at a shoulder height, a platform with fleeces where you can stretch out and rest or sleep if you fancy being really warm and cosy. In the old days, even this sleeping shelf had its function - old people would be put there to ease their last, arthritic, years, or newborn babies, who needed to be away from drafts. Aga eat your heart out!
I took one of my English visitor friends there for tea and he immediately started to photograph the place (this photo is one of his), in fact everyone who goes there is swept away by the genuine warmth of the family who live here and their way of life that refuses Ikea because 'this kitchen works much better, doesn't it?' Indeed it does. And the food cooked there, using their own herbs and the milk form their own goats, tastes so much nicer than anything cooked on electricity or gas. Once a week the family have a bread-baking day, which is just fabulous. The dough rises in straw baskets, then the risen loaves are put on a wooden shovel with a hugely long handle - about 2 meters long because it needs to reach far into the oven. About twelve loaves fit in, together with sweet dough and poppyseed pastries to fill the smaller spaces in between. And when it is all baked, it tastes so good one just stuffs oneself, it's impossible to stop eating this heavenly, crunchy gift with its soft, fragrant and yieldy inside.
So it makes sense that all around us here in the countryside, people who live or are newly acquiring older country buildings, have started to come back to the idea of such stoves now: for their better tasting food, and also for the economy and ecology of use. And the stove-makers' business is booming. But maybe the Czechs just won't let go off their fairy-tales they are so famous for: just think how many feature such stoves. The lazy John who refuses to get off his warm place behind the stove (and then becomes King for his trouble:-) ) the old women who brew their magic potions on them, even the German/Czech story of Hansel and Grethel features a stove with a large enough oven to fit the Witch in...


Philip Wilkinson said...

And I bet the heat from that stove is good for drying mushrooms, too, eh?

Thud said...

History and great bread...a great combo.