Hungarians have been eating cabbage stuffed with fresh meat for centuries at Christmas.
As 24.hu reported, people regularly use the best ingredients available to prepare the Christmas menu. In the Middle Ages, this meant pork meat, while today it is salmon, steak and king crab. Interestingly, stuffed cabbage’s
popularity remained unchanged during the centuries in Hungary.
Of course, the main dish on the Christmas table changed during the time: before the discovery of America, it was made of grain, cabbage or lentil, while from the 16th century of marrow and potato. These plants and crops were easier to store even during winter. Superstitious people even believed that eating poppy and marrow seeds will make them wealthy in the new year – said Dr Anikó Báti, an ethnographer from the Institute of Ethnology of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.
Furthermore, they seeded using the Christmas tablecloth next Spring. Moreover, they put grain on the table and gave it to the poultries to help them lay eggs.
Since Roman Catholics were fasting before December 24, they particularly tried to put the best dishes they could on the table which meant mostly fresh pork meat. This is because
even the poorest families could raise at least one pig that could be slaughtered before Christmas –
highlighted Dr Báti.
Since most peasants were not able to conserve meat for a long time, fresh meat was extremely valuable. Meat soup made of pork or chicken could not be omitted from the Christmas menu, but the most important dish was stuffed cabbage. According to Dr Báti, it was
a symbolic food of the Hungarian cuisine abroad
like goulash soup today.
Mixing the minced meat with rice – which is also a symbol of being rich – is a modern innovation, before it was combined with barley and millet.
Interestingly, Hungarians do not eat much fish; however, one of the peaks of their fish consumption is at Christmas. This is because of Historical reasons. Except for those living in the high mountains, everybody could eat fish easily in the Middle Ages. This is why one of Hungary’s most important export products was fish. However, this changed after the
regulation of the big rivers and the drainage of the swamps
in the second half of the 19th century. Afterwards, fish became a luxury only affordable by the wealthiest. Customs change slowly, and Hungarians do not eat enough fish even today even though it is no longer luxury – highlighted Dr Báti.