What would you eat if you lived in Galicia in Belle Epoque?

The territory of Galicia occupies Ukrainian Lvivska, Ternopilska and Ivano-Frankivska regions and Polish eastern border lands. This territory is an unique cultural phenomenon that has been formed due to very special historical circumstances. It is closely connected to both Polish and Ukrainian culture, though can’t be considered as a part of any of them.

Galicia. Its location relative to present borders

Its cuisine was formed as a special phenomenon in the XIX century. At that time this territory was a part of Austrian Empire and was formally called a Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria. Its population was very diverse ethnically as well as socially. That is why the food of different social groups varied pretty much.

If you lived in village

The most stable food traditions were in Galician village. In fact, this rural food traditions were common for most of Slavic nations especially for eastern. Almost all rural residents at the end of XIX century were involved in agriculture. The stockbreeding was an important part of economy only for Carpathian mountain region. That is why grain was the basis of food for an inhabitant of the village at that times.

Most of the meals were made of grain or with grain. Different porridges of millet, oats, corn, wheat and rye (depending on what grew better in particular region) of various grindings were the most popular dishes. A lot of meals were made of flour. A dough could be done with or without eggs. It could be divided into pieces and boiled (galushki) or could be stuffed with some grain, vegetables or fruits and also be boiled (vareniks).

Harvest Gathering in Ukraine — Mykola Pymonenko

The other way to cook a nutritional and Harvest Gathering in Ukraine — Mykola Pymonenkotasty meal of flour was to make a kisil (from Ukrainian word “кислий” which means “sour”). It could be made of any flour, but the oat one made it the thickest. The flour was brewed with a boiling water and left to cool down. Then a piece of bread was added and the mixture was left to sour for at list one night. After that it was boiled. It could be salted and served with some vegetables or sweetened with gems or fresh fruits.

Rural residents ate very little meat. It was a holiday meal, because the livestock was kept mostly for milk and the poultry — for eggs. Most of the forest of Galicia had their private owners who prohibited hunting there for commonality. The dairy husbandry played a very important role for village. Milk was an important ingredient for a lot of meals. However, the most developed dairy farming was in mountain region were cheesemaking was habitual.


Ox — Mykola Pymonenko

At that time, most of the vegetables that are popular now were grown in Galicia. However, some regions as Lemkivshchyna, which occupied the lowest part of the Carpathian Mountains, were conservative and grew and eat only traditional vegetables that were typical for Eastern Europe before the discovery of America with its potato and tomatoes. The most widespread and traditional vegetables for this region were cabbage, beet, turnip, swede and parsnips. It is interesting that turnip was the basic vegetable in Ukrainian cuisine before the spreading of potato. However, in Galicia the parsnip was much more popular because it grew better in this region.

There were very few deserts: sweet porridges, pancakes and pretty ordinary cakes. The sugar was expensive that is why all the meals were sweetened usually with gems and honey. People in the village drank very little alcohol.

All in all, village cuisine of this region was monotonous. The main purpose of the meals was to provide a person with an energy for demanding work in the field.


If you lived in city

The trade in this region caused the growing of such big multinational cities as Lviv, Drogobych, Stanislav and Brody. The elite of this cities was orientated on the fashion of Austrian Empire and the rest of the West Europe. And the food was not an exclusion. That is why Galician aristocrats hired Austrian chefs who brought the recipes of high European cuisine to Galicia.

The ethnic composition of big Galician cities also determined their food traditions. For example, Lviv that was one of the most multinational cities had a very multinational cuisine. It included Jewish, Armenian, Greek and Austrian meals as well as Ukrainian and Polish. Armenian and Greek citizens brought a lot of spices to Galician cuisine, for example. Armenians also introduced grill to Galicians.


Most of the Galician dishes are the interpretations of dishes from other cuisines. One of the most popular Galician meals is beetroot with horseradish. It is believed to be invented by Ashkenazic Jews in Galicia. Rich Jewish merchants wanted to eat the most fashionable at that times French food sometimes. The most popular souse for meat in French cuisine in the beginning of XIX century was cream with horseradish. But the Jews who followed kashrut (a set of religious dietary law) were not allowed to mix dairy products with meat. So they started to looking for how to replace cream in the French horseradish souse. Beetroot was one of the most common vegetables, it grew everywhere and was very cheap at that times. Someone tried it instead of cream and this interpretation deeply entrenched in the cuisine of the region.

Due to the advanced trade, the city cuisine was much more various than the village one. There were much more ingredients including different kinds of meat, vegetables and imported products. There were European cheeses, caviar, different deserts and sweets, coffee and alcohol. Townsfolk drank much more than rural residents. The preferences in alcohol as well as in food differed due to the social and financial rank.


If you were an urban poor

The poorest category of townsfolk included laborers and students. Even they could visit kneips (taverns) sometimes. Mr Lipner’s Kneip in Lviv was popular among students because of the unlimited free bread provided to the beer and sausages that were served there. A student usually ordered and payed for a small beer with one sausage but engorged with the free bread.

The food of urban poor was as plane as the village cuisine. It mostly consisted of porridges and vegetables. The difference was in offal and alcohol that were an essential part of the poor city meal.


Lviv 1914

If you were a middle class and ate at home

The traditions of urban home cooking were influenced by the high cuisine. A lot of hostesses tried to imitate meals from restaurants replacing rare and expensive ingredients by more common and cheap. For example, the waffle cake with nuts, rum and cocoa became very popular among Galician aristocracy. The simple women taught to bake waffles very soon, but the other ingredients for the cake were very expensive. So they started to smear waffles with different gems, cream with walnuts etc.

All women had their family notebooks with recipes that were passed from mother to daughter. There were also a lot of cookbooks to search for interesting meals for family dinners at that times. Some meals that were very common in Eastern Europe were cooked in Galicia a little bit differently. For example, the dough for Knedls (Galician version of Knödel — boiled dumplings made of flour and potato) was made much thicker than traditionally in other regions. Galician hostesses considered thin dough unreliable and easy-to-brake. Knedls were also served differently depending on a region. In Lviv, for example oil and grated bread was added.

Knedls Recipe

If you were a wealthy man

There were a lot of places to eat in a Galician city in Belle Epoque. The day could be started in the snidankovy pokiy (breakfast room) — a very specific type of restaurants. They were opened only in the mornings providing breakfasts for mostly only reach citizens. They served different types of coffee and deserts and were usually visited by the whole families that differed them from restaurants and kneips where a man couldn’t take his kids or even a decent wife.

Restaurants were places to communicate while eating. They were popular among merchants who concluded contracts there and among actors, writers, poets and other writers who came there to party. The menus usually included a lot of different salads, snacks, few types of soups, a lot of different kinds of meat, especially much game, fish, seafood and a great selection of alcohol. A lot of restaurants of that times were also dancing places.


Smaller and more budget kneips served few meat meals, half of which were usually made of offal, and at least one kind of sausages. They also provided a complex dinner of three dishes and offered different drinks. They were no less popular among people of art who run off money pretty fast and were not able to visit restaurants every day.

Coffee and pastry shops were also very popular in Galician cities of Belle Epoque. They proposed different sweets and various deserts as well as tea and, of course, coffee. Coffee shop Roma in Lviv, for example, offered five shades this drink: shale gold, shale nut, nut brown, capo and black.


If you were a vegetarian

There were not much ethical vegetarians in Belle Epoque Galicia. However vegetarian cuisine was popular both in the city and in villages. The main reason of that was a very expensivee meat. Also a lot of people thought of vegetarianism as of the health improving practice. There was a sanatorium in Kosiv (Ivano-Frankivsk region) were pacients paid pretty much money for doctors to make them give up eating meat for a meanwhile.

There were few vegeterian cafes in Galician citys. They offered mostly pastreys with different dairy products. Also there were some season dishes of vegetables. People of that region hardly ever gave up eating dairy products and eggs.