One of the oldest and most fundamental Lithuanian food products was and is rye bread. Rye bread is eaten every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Bread plays an important role in family holiday rituals and agrarian ceremonies. Lithuanians link many beliefs and magic with bread. One of them is the protective characteristic of bread, protection from fire and help in putting out fires. For protection a piece of bread is placed in the foundation when building a new house.
Bread is shown great respect, is called holy and is referred to in the feminine gender. If a piece of bread falls accidentally to the ground, it is picked up with reverence, kissed and eaten. This is done so that the home would never be without bread.
Two kinds of bread are traditional, plain fermented and scalded. Plain fermented bread has been baked from earliest times, while scalded bread has only been baked since the start of the 20th century. Plain bread ferments overnight but needs to be kneaded for a long time, while scalded bread fermentation takes almost 3 days.
Bread baking has been the honourable duty of the mistress of the house. This duty was passed on to the eldest daughter with special ceremonies. Mother would collect all bread baking equipment and hand it over to the grown up daughter, together with a kiss. After the daughter baked her first loaf, mother gathered the entire family and invited the nearest neighbour to taste the daughter’s first bread. The first slice went to father, who then kissed his daughter and turned her and the bench she sat on towards the door. This meant that the daughter was prepared to be a homemaker, was ready for marriage.
Bread baking day was a very special day. Peace and quiet reigned in the home. If a visitor arrived on bread baking day, he had to remain until the bread was done. Nothing was loaned out on bread baking day, with the belief that the borrower would take away the bread’s good taste. Every homemaker is proud of the taste of her bread and proudly states that one’s own bread is tastier than somebody else’s cake. Even though very few homemakers bake bread at home now, they value the traditional belief that bread is more valuable than gold.
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