The Aladzha Monastery

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Monastery cuisine

Type: stati | Historic Period:

As provided under the medieval monastery statutes the daily meals of the monks were turned into a kind of a cult ritual through the ”brothers’ tables”. This was the meaning of the God’s apostle table.
All monks together with the abbot of the monastery used to get together to eat the same food and drink the same wine at the same table. An exception to this rule was allowed only in case of illness of a brother or for old-aged monks.
It was strictly forbidden to take food to the cells or keep any cookware.
It was adopted as a general rule, three meals cooked from whatever God’s Providence had provided, to be put on the table every day. Except for Wednesdays and Fridays, cheese and 4 cups of wine for each brother were served on the table daily. During the Easter holidays more and richer food was served to support the brothers who would be exhausted and tired of vigils and fast. In the fasting period food was scarce – the use of butter /olive oil/ and wine was not allowed, except for Saturdays and Sundays.
The traditional monastery cuisine treats digestion as the most important process going on in the body and being a key to health and spiritual perfection. The members of the brotherhood spared long periods of time for meals. They ate calmly and stopped eating when they felt full. Apart from that, they always had supper early and avoided raw foods in the late hours.
The monks grew almost everything themselves. That is why they always had mainly seasonal and local fruit and vegetables on their table. Meat was served rarely and consisted basically of fish or birds. Meat of four-legged animals was given to the sick and weak only. Dairy animals were bred in many monasteries for cheese-making.
On the plateau above the monastery, ploughed with a wooden plough, the monks sowed wheat for feeding. Another source of subsistence was the century-old forest. The monks, as well as any other Christians, treated the forest with special attention. It was a special world to them, a symbol of everything carrying respect and fear, excitement and worship. Despite their fears, the monks were very much dependant on the forest. That was where firewood for winter came from. Honey came from the forest (in 13th-14th century sugar was unknown), as well as fruit, game for the table and pastures for the flocks of sheep and goats.
Soups were often present on the monks’ table in the monastery kitchen. They were thinner and in many cases contained no fat. Here is a recipe of the so-called “Eremite’s soup” that reached us from the past.

 

Eremites Soup recipe

Ingredients:

-          5 grains of chick-peas (in 13th14th  c. beans were unknown in Europe)

-          10 grains of lentils

-          1 onion

-          Several wild plums

-          Aromatic herbs from the forest

Preparation:

  1. Wash the chick-peas and lentils.
  2. Put them in an old earthenware pot and add cold water until they are covered.
  3. Wash them after 6-8 hours and soak in cold water again. Add the wild plums.
  4. Put the pot on a trivet in the fireplace and boil over low fire.
  5. Whentheygetsofter, add the chopped onion and a drop of olive oil.
  6. In half an hour add the forest herbs.
  7. Pour the cooked soup in earthenware bowls and eat with wooden spoons.

 

Good appetite!