Saturday, May 8, 2010

More about Slovak/Wallachian foods

There were some words in a menu that I couldn't figure out. I asked Jana about them, and she kindly exlained to me about them (thank you Jana!).

One of them was "Jánošíkova" in Jánošíkova žebra, which we ate last time. I knew it was a rib, but we didn't know what Jánošíkova meant. She told me it was coming from a person named Juraj Jánošík. Then why "Jánošíkova" instead of "Jánošík"? In Czech, you basically put "ova" at the end of the noun to make it into a possesive case (just like yo uput -'s in English).

Anyway, Jánošík was the famous Slovak outlaw. According to the legend, he was the ultimate "good" thief. He stole things from the riches and gave them away to the poors. It reminded me of Nezumi Kozo, the famous thief in Japan during the Edo period. Jánošík's exact birth date seems to be unknown, but the record shows that he was baptised in 1688. He was raised in the northwestern part of Slovakia. At the age of 23, he became a leader of a forest robber group. It says that the group was active mostly in northwestern Kingdom of Hungary (today's Slovakia), around the Váh (Vág) river between Važec (Vázsec) and Východná (Vichodna), but the territory of their activity extended also other parts of today's Slovakia, as well as to Poland and Moravia. He was captured several times. The final trial took place on March 16 and March 17, 1713 when he was sentenced to death. There is no record of his execution, but it became a part of the legend. According to it, a hook was pierced through his left side and he was left dangling on the gallows to die (yikes!), which was the common way of execution for leaders of robber bands. A legend also says that he refused to offer the list of soldiers in exchange of his execution, but it says that he said "if you have baked me so you should also eat me!" and jumped on the hook. He certainly sounds like a hero.

The second unknown word was Smažný korbáč. We knew "smažný" means "fried", but we could not figure out what "korbáč" meant. Apparently, it was Slovak rather than Czech. According to the google tranlsate, it means "string." Jana gave us more detailed information about the word and the related tradition which was rather interesting. The word "korbáč" is a Slovak word for “tatar” or “pomlazka (whip)” in Czech. They are a bunch of sticks twisted together like this one or this one. This type of woven stick is used for an Easter tradition. People use the stick to hit (or spank) girls (more precisely any women's bottoms - ouch!) to make sure they will have enough power and health in the coming year. I did some seach on this matter and found out that you see men spanking women's bottom all over the place in Czech Republic on the Easter day. WOW!  I did a bit more research on this rather interesting tradition and found the article saying this:

In the Czech Republic and Slovakia, a tradition of spanking or whipping is carried out on Easter Monday. In the morning, men spank women with a special handmade whip called a pomlázka (in Czech) or korbáč (in Slovak), or, in eastern Moravia and Slovakia, throw cold water on them. The pomlázka/korbáč consists of eight, twelve or even twenty-four withies (willow rods), is usually from half a meter to two meters long and decorated with coloured ribbons at the end. The spanking normally is not painful or intended to cause suffering. A legend says that women should be spanked in order to keep their health and beauty during whole next year.

An additional purpose can be for men to exhibit their attraction to women; unvisited women can even feel offended. Traditionally, the spanked woman gives a coloured egg and sometimes a small amount of money to the man as a sign of her thanks. In some regions the women can get revenge in the afternoon or the following day when they can pour a bucket of cold water on any man. The habit slightly varies across Slovakia and the Czech Republic. A similar tradition existed in Poland (where it is called Dyngus Day), but it is now little more than an all-day water fight.

Very interesting!!!

Okay, so "korbáč" means whip-like woven sticks. We sure know that we can't eat that. Apparently the menu was about a very salty type of cheese in a form of twisted "tatar." Jana also told me that she typically eat it non-fried. We tried to get this item yesterday when we went back to the restaurant, but they were out of it. Rats!

The last unknown word was "fragály" in the menu item called "Valašské fragály." The word "valašské" means Wallachian, which I explained in my previous entry. Apparently, the word "fragály" was originated from the word "frgal," which means "pejorative." Basically "fragály" seems to refer to "a not well-done cake." You can find the picture of making this cake here. Jana also told me that the topping can be anything, but the most comnmon ones are dried pears, plum jam, quark and poppy seeds. Yummy!

Guess what? We went back to the restaurant last night and did try the cake. It came with two slices. One was lemon based topping, and the other was some sort of berry based topping. Mmmmm, it was soooo good!

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