Old Lemkos said that fall is the most important season of the year. A farmer must rise early and work twice as hard in order to well prepare himself for the long Carpathian winter. Already in early September, farmers were preparing the soil for the winter crops, which prior to the arrival of winter had to develop a strong root system. Plums, pears and apples were being dried in specially made dryers and ovens. This was a job for young people during the long autumn evenings; and on beautiful moonlit evenings, songs and pranks could be heard in every orchard. Housewives were drying mushrooms in ovens, mushrooms that were earlier picked by the herdsmen while tending the cattle. At that time, dry leaves from young pine and beech trees were also brought home as bedding for the cattle, because there was simply not enough straw for this purpose.
Firewood was also hauled home to heat the living quarters (beech wood was best for this purpose), and for the preparation of food. Normally the wood was cut and split by moonlight, because there was plenty of other work during the day. Flax, a plant which from the moment it sprouted till it was spun into thread, required a lot of painstaking care, was dried and then moistened. But most important of all was the harvesting of potatoes, because in Lemkivshchyna a relatively large amount of potatoes was always planted. Before the first frost hit, it was necessary to pick all the beets, which were used as cattle fodder, pumpkins, onions, garlic, and other vegetables which would otherwise be damaged by frost. Turnips and heads of cabbage were the last to be harvested, cabbage even held an "honorary" place in the Lemko kitchen. For a family of five, three one hundred-kilogram barrels of sauerkraut were readied. On Lenten days, sauerkraut was eaten raw, prepared with flax oil and onions. Typically, sauerkraut was cooked in its own "var" (juice), and greased with "zaprashka" (roux made to thicken the soup with a mixture of fried fat, flour and onions). Every dish was served with either mashed potatoes or sautéed potatoes, potatoes baked in hot embers or boiled in their peels, so called "oberiany". Potatoes were also added to knishes, "kalushky" (small boiled dumplings) and to filled dumplings ("pyrohy"). Potatoes and cabbage were therefore the basic staples in a Lemko kitchen, and even when there was a shortage of bread, nobody went hungry.
It was during the fall that the Lemkos, who lived in the Carpathians, just like busy bees, hauled everything that was grown in the fields or forests to their wooden huts. In the Carpathians only a lazy person would experience a shortage of food or suffer from the cold, because the richness of the Carpathian nature, even though stingy when it came to the production of bread, gave a person a chance to gather plenty of Godís other gifts. In those days a real Lemko held no envy towards the noblemen just because they ate white bread and drank coffee, because a coarsely ground slice of bread and "keselytsia" made from oats were to him most delicious.
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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