MEALS AND CUSTOMS
Traditionally, Czechs and Slovaks prefer all meals to be served hot. When a variety of food is not abundant, they are satisfied with coffee and breads for breakfast; a quick hot lunch may be based on sausages or a potato or vegetable dish; dinner may be a soup with a second course of meat and gravy and a small dessert of dumplings, or a quick meat sandwich with pickles and potato salad.
These three simple meals will he complemented by hot snacks of sausages and beer or assorted pastries with coffee. Gastronom counters and taverns as well as pastry shops and coffeehouses and the famed uzenazstvi are present everywhere in cities and towns.
Friday was traditionally a meatless day, not as much for religious reasons as for a way to economize on meats. Friday dinner would be a traditional “false” soup with fruit dumplings for dessert. A “false” soup is made with a meatless vegetable stock, often starting with browned onions to add a pseudo meat taste.
Even in difficult times the Sunday dinner is almost always the biggest hot meal of the week. A rich hearty soup is followed by a special dish of pork or beef (or roast fowl) floating in smooth thick gravy, garnished with poached fruit or a huge sliced dumpling. The meal is completed with light sweet fruit dumplings served hot.
FOODS COMMONLY USED
Traditional Czech and Slovak cuisine borrows heavily from both Austrian and Hungarian tastes and are rich and satisfying. Plain meats, fresh crisp vegetables, fresh fruits, or small servings have no place here. The rich production of dairy products are ingredients in many baked goods, creamy gravies, and smooth sauces. Both vegetables and fruits are preferred well cooked and probably well garnished with appropriate sauces and syrups. Sour-cream-smothered vegetable dishes and fruits cooked in syrup predominate. A great variety of grains and flours are used in many types of breads and rolls, cereal side dishes, and especially in the many dumplings that can be found in soups, beside sliced gravy-rich meats, or on a dessert plate graced with a sweet fruit sauce or whipped cream. Whether one turns to Austria or Hungary, there is never a lack of richly elegant desserts. Beer is considered the national beverage for Czechs, while the Slovaks prefer wines.