Ossetian food and table traditions. A recipe included!
Hello dear readers!
My name is Alina. I was born in the North Ossetia republic and despite the fact that currently I live in another place I still maintain my culture. In the previous article I told you mainly about people and family traditions and here it’s all about the Ossetian food and etiquet at the table that we follow. I’m sure it’s different to many other nations so if you want to be well aware of how it all works in our republic and be a truly polite guest – I’m here to help you with this! Just read this article through!
At big celebrations
At any big event, men and women occupy different tables and never celebrate anything together side by side at one table. It’s just not how it works.
Although a woman in the Caucasus is highly respected, she has her own position in a society and isn’t supposed to have a big say in the decisions. To look into the Caucasian man’s eyes is also not a good idea. Of course, today you can see women and men sharing one table and even hear a toast given by a woman. About 50 years ago you couldn’t even imagine a picture like this. This might also be applied to the culture in villages or small towns in the North Ossetia.
Modesty is the most important quality of the Caucasian woman and of course, the perfect cooking skills (or at least any cooking skills). A girl who can’t cook Ossetian food and especially pies will puzzle any Caucasian man. There’s just no way that a girl doesn’t know how to cook it!
Of course, over centuries, many traditions have faded or changed but this one will remain forever: you will always be welcome and treated as the most important person in the world when you come as a guest to this region.
Being a guest
First of all, relax! 🙂 Imagine that you’re visiting a grandma whose aim is to feed anyone at any cost. Ossetians, as well as the other Caucasian cultures, consider dining tradition as one of the most important – they cook a lot and the amount of food on the table is usually enough for 10+ people even if you’re just 4 people there.
I know it might be pretty hard for western cultures to understand it but please don’t try to be so logical and practical. Especially, never stop your hosts if they are about to arrange such a ‘party’. They simply want to show that they appreciate you as a guest and are ready to give you everything they have, so food is the just one of the representations of their attitude. The same rule works further when the dinner begins – you do not reject any food they offer you. It’s extremely impolite. If you don’t feel like eating it for any reason, still take it and put a small portion in you plate. None blames you if eventually you won’t eat it.
If you got invited for an Ossetian celebration with a lot of other guests there’re also certain things you need to know:
– We have a toasting tradition which means you don’t drink until someone gives a speech.
– Although it can be suuuuuper long, none is allowed to interrupt and all men should stand up to listen to it.
– Also if an older person stands up (he/she is going to leave, or he/she just arrived) you should stand up as well. It’s a sign of respect.
To thank for dinner and admit a great taste of the food is always a good idea!
To speak of the traditional Ossetian food, I wouldn’t say it is very diverse. However, you can find all kinds of dishes you like.
Of course, in the first place, Ossetian cuisine is about Ossetian pies! The pies have their traditions and their meanings. For every holiday you bake three pies with cheese, and this is the only pie which can be served to accompany a prayer (which is the obligatory ritual to start the meal with at any event).
In fact, you can fill the pie with simply anything. Ossetians themselves prefer several main types of pie fillings: cheese, beef meat, mashed potatoes and cheese, beetroot leaves and cheese, cabbage, wood garlic. However, you will never find such fillings as chicken or mushrooms, which are so popular out of the region.
Of course, people in Ossetia don’t feed on the pies only. They are served for a special occasion or guests. On the other days we eat soups, dishes made from meat, vegetables and a lot of salads. You can always find these ingridients at a local market and it’s so cheap!
In the last couple of years eating in restaurants has also become more popular in Vladikavkaz. Just like everywhere else, people are having lunches or dinners with their friend instead of cooking at home. However, during my University years, resaurants seemed to be too fancy and expensive to go. When we wanted to meet each other, we could just visit friends and have lunch at home. I still think nothing beats home cooked meals!
“Dzykka” story & recipe
Dzykka is one of the simplest Ossetian dishes, yet easy to mess up. 🙂 If served hot it looks like some kind of porrdge made of sour cream, flour, and sometimes soft (homemade) cheese. Although some eat it cold which is more like a casserole then.
This dish has its own history. Alans, the ancestors of Ossetians, used dzykka in fertility rituals: the cheese-wheat porridge was ritually offered to the patron god of livestock. Nowadays people cook it on a celebration called Kahts. In fact, it’s the day when a baby boy is born and the closest relatives come together to celebrate it. Then also his first birthday (read about this tradition in the previous article).
The interesting fact is that not all Ossetians like Dzykka as it’s too fatty and heavy. But I think it tastes delicious! People also say that the best taste comes if the cook keeps silence while cooking it. I guess the reason is that you have to pay much attention and always keep an eye on your cooking pot during the entire cooking process.
Here’s the recipe described in a few steps:
You’ll need just sour cream and flour.
- Preheat the frying pan (at about 180 degrees)
- Put 300 ml of sour cream and stir it for about 10-15 min. If you feel that its too thick, add some water.
- After your sour cream simmers, add 2-3 tablespoons of flour and some salt
- Stir it constantly using a whisk till you see the oil on the surface
- Put it to the plate and eat it till it’s still hot
If you have a white, soft and medium-salty type of cheese (like cottage cheese) you should start cooking with it. First, you mash it properly with your hands so that when you add sour cream both ingridients form a mixture of uniform consistency. The following steps are the same.
Usually you eat Dzykka with lavash bread simply by deeping it in.
In the picture you can see how it looks like 🙂 Bon Appetit!
If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below or find me on social media
Facebook: Alina Kassabieva
See you in Vladikavkaz!
P.S. If you like cooking and want to experiment cooking Ossetian food at home, have a look at this recipe too.