Sour cream, pot cheese, sour milk, and buttermilk are used widely in many dishes, but milk is seldom used as a beverage. Frequently, hot milk is added to the breakfast coffee. Occasionally, bryndza, a sheep’s milk cheese, finds its way to the table, and some-times the Slovakian peasant specialty of Liptovsky syr (Liptauer cheese), made with a soft blend of sheep’s milk cheese and seasonings, is heaped on rye bread, but for the most part, simple pot cheese is at the top of the list of favorites.
FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
Fruits and vegetables are used mostly in their cooked state. Fruits are served as compotes, fruit sauces, or fruit fillings for baked goods, and sometimes poached as a garnish for meat dishes. Vegetables are usually well cooked or served as pickles of many kinds. Berries and stone fruits are popular, but citrus fruits are seldom used. In public dining places, ascorbic acid has been added to salt to make up for this lack. Apples are widely enjoyed and used in compotes, fillings, and as sauces. The staple vegetables include potatoes, green and red and savoy cabbage, sauerkraut, wild mushrooms, rutabagas, cauliflower and kohlrabi, onions and garlic. Some fresh seasonal vegetables are also used sparingly, such as radish-es and cucumbers.
MEATS AND ALTERNATES
Pork is the favored meat and every part of the animal is used. Other meats used include beef and veal, hare, all offal, goose, duck, and chicken, smoked and cured meats, and a great variety of sausages, served hot. Fish and seafood are not popular and are seldom served. Although carp and herring are usually available, they are mostly served only on traditional Christmas Eve.
The preference is for meats to be cooked until tender and juicy, and always served with a thick rich gravy, often including sour cream. Any meats that are not suited to this type of cookery are used in sausages, dumplings, or as a base for soups.
Eggs are used mostly as an ingredient for other dishes. Occasionally omelets are served, which incorporate bits of meats, vegetables, even potatoes, or pot cheese and sometimes fruits and fruit sauces. Legumes are of no importance in the diet and nuts are used only in bakery and desserts.
BREADS AND GRAINS
Wheat and rye predominate. Most breads are made with wholegrain flours, either wheat or rye, or a mixture of both, incorporated into a sourdough. Bread is never wasted. In fact, the Czech and Slovak use of slices or crumbs of stale bread vary greatly: in soups, in sauces, in cakes, and most often in dumplings. Wheat flour is consumed in bakery sweets. It must not be overlooked that the many types of dumplings are as much of a staple food as bread itself.
Preference is shown for butter and rendered pork or goose fats. More recently, use is made of margarines.
SWEETS AND SNACKS
Desserts and candies have always been available and are a very popular snack. Women consume the most sweets both in the form of candies to nibble and rich desserts to take with a coffee break. For the most part, men prefer a snack of beer and hot sausages.
Spices and herbs are used with a light touch, since the natural taste of quality fresh foods requires little seasoning. The classic seasonings include poppy seeds, caraway seeds, garlic, onions, and mushrooms. Dried or toasted bread and/or cake crumbs may also be used as a seasoning. It cannot be overlooked that much of the rich flavor and aroma of traditional cookery is derived from the rich and abundant use of fresh dairy products.
Beer is considered to be the national beverage and the particular favorite of the Czechs, who will heatedly discuss the quality and merit of one beer over another. Red and white wines are made locally but do not travel well so are not usually exported. Many wines are homemade, especially by the Slovaks, who prefer wine over beer.
Slivovitz is a clear, very potent brandy made from plums. It is taken straight with any tiny excuse, from use as an appetite stimulant to medicinal use.
Coffee or a coffee-flavored brew made from malt or chicory is enjoyed for breakfast hot and strong, often liberally laced with hot milk or even rum.