Lithuanian Cookery DemonstrationFor seven years I have been teaching classes in Lithuanian cooking. The Classes have been held at the Chandler Library in Nashua on the first Thursday of each month from September to May. Please note that the 2007 schedule has been affected due to space constraints caused by Nashua budget cuts. The next class is on Thursday 26 April 2007.
The classes are generously sponsored by the Zylonis Fund and therefore free to attendees. This fund was started about 100 years ago to further knowledge of Lithuanian Culture. There is a large Lithuanian community in and around Nashua and I was asked to research and then teach classes on Lithuanian cooking.
What I find particularly pleasing is that at least half of the participants are of Lithuanian descent and confirm that the dishes bring back memories of the foods cooked by their mothers and grandmothers. What is even more interesting is that very few of these recipes have been passed down (at least locally) so that I am able to reintroduce these people to their heritage. Together we have discovered Lithuanian history and traditions.
I was delighted when many of the class told me that they had made the Christmas Fruit Compote for their Lithuanian Family members who loved it. They had then taken the same dish to Christmas parties of non-Lithuanian friends who are now learning that Lithuanian cuisine is not just potatoes and cabbage as many non-Lithuanians think. So in this way, I am reinforcing Lithuanian Culture in a very positive manner.
I undertake extensive research including studying in Lithuania at Vilnius University, eating all my meals at a selection of restaurants, bistros, food courts & student diners in Lithuania, investigating supermarkets, traveling around the country and translating the cookbooks that I bought in Lithuania. You can see some of the cookery books that I use for Lithuanian cooking.
I do have a Culinary Arts degree, I am a qualified teacher, trained in London and Switzerland and have traveled extensively in Europe. I teach International cooking classes, cater gourmet parties and have made regular appearances on WMUR ABC's Channel Nine's "Cooks' Corner" for more than ten years.
Demonstration results - rave reviewsFrom my many years of experience in teaching and cooking, I am well aware that many recipes in magazines and books are very poorly written with the result that once tried, never repeated. That is a waste of everyone's time and money.
I constantly receive rave reviews from participants in these classes. Judging by the number of people who continue to turn up regularly over the years, they are very happy. I get great pleasure in hearing people of Lithuanian descent delightedly reminiscing over a recipe that I taught, bringing back memories of their mother or grandmother cooking the same recipe but they never had a written copy. I constantly ask if the recipes bring back memories. Of course, each month I bring most of my many Lithuanian cookbooks with me so that they are available for everyone to look at.
AuthenticityI was very disappointed to read on a Lithuanian Food Web Site, the claim of creating recipes with only a 'Lithuanian flair' as opposed to the authentic recipes that I use. I try very hard to accurately research and test recipes before the demonstration and would not attempt to 'create' a recipe with 'Lithuanian Flair'. That would be easy, but since I am a professional I research a subject thoroughly and extensively.
If a few people are concerned about 'authenticity' of the recipes I would point out the preface by Genevieve Kaneb from the "Recipe Book of the American Lithuanian Roman Catholic Women's Alliance", 1982:
"Five hundred years ago, Lithuania was a formidable duchy in Europe, a leader in art, architecture, music and commerce. Today, we see a small, occupied country, striving to preserve its mores, language and culture. Our goal in publishing this book is to help preserve one phase of a rich heritage by including this section of Lithuanian Cuisine.
In the late 1800's, America witnessed the arrival of Lithuanians in sizeable
numbers seeking a land of peace and plenty. A hard-working people, they
established themselves, as did most immigrants, by taking menial jobs in
factories, mines, stock yards and on farms. (Read Upton Sinclair's
'The Jungle' for a description of a Lithuanian family in the Chicago
stockyards at the beginning of the 20th century). Their diligence was
rewarded. American-Lithuanian communities became rooted in this country,
each culture contributing to the other. Housewives of these hardy immigrants
brought with them recipes which had been handed down from mother to daughter
Combining new ingredients found in America with their traditional
recipes, they established a cuisine that is truly gastronomic folk art.
Lithuanian cooking relies heavily on potatoes and flour, from which a hearty
meal can be made. Dairy products as well as fish, are staples of a diet which
serve family and ever-present guests. Traditional recipes have been
modified through the years and "new" recipes have been added by more recent
arrivals from Lithuania and from relatives and friends living in Europe.
Lithuanian cooking is versatile. Every district has its special dishes,
therefore, slight variations occur in menus for traditional "holiday"
dishes as well as in everyday cooking.
A few of the recipes I've demonstrated at the class.