Potatoes, bread, meat, cream, cumin seeds and cabbage. Those are the main components of the Czech diet, whether they come unprocessed or disguised as dumplings, pancakes, schnitzels, sausages, sauces or soups. Traditional Czech food is invariably rich in saturated fat and therefore considered unhealthy by nutritional standards. What do the Czechs themselves think about what they eat?
Michael (20) is a big fan of local Czech food. I like goulash, which Czech people will usually claim to be a Czech invention, not a Hungarian one. I like meat and if I would have to think of any foreign food that I like, that would be an English-style breakfast with bacon and beans.`
`Being a vegetarian in Czech Republic is quite hard`
`Czech cuisine is dominated by meat. Being a vegetarian is not a very likely choice for Czech people`, explains Jan (25, photo) who a few years ago decided to quit eating meat. `It`s not a very Czech thing to even think about eating meat ? or choosing not to. Me too, I like the taste of meat, especially sheep meat, so it is kind of an effort. But after reading and hearing about the ways animals are treated, killed and processed, I know that this is the right choice for me. I don`t like the idea that humans kill animals for consumption, let alone the way they kill them.`
`After realizing that it woulf be better if I didn`t eat meat, it still took me some time to `implement` my decision. I only managed when I was living in Canada for a year. Within the Czech environment, it is almost impossible to take the step to become vegetarian. All normal dishes contain at least some kind of meat. Even the ones that are labeled as `meat-less`. Fried cheese, sma??k, is about the only traditional dish that could pass for vegetarian. I occasionally still eat fish, simply for social reasons. I can`t opt out on everything, but I am aware that there`s a bit of cognitive dissonance in there.`
`Regardless of the fish issue, vegetarianism is something most Czech people don`t understand. On average, they are not very conscious about what they eat and I have given up trying to convince them of my ideals. Sometimes they agree with my way of thinking, but they don`t see the urge of adjusting their preferences`, Jan explains.
Petra (22) confirms that she finds vegetarians rather strange. `I don`t know why somebody would want to be vegetarian and how they could do it. I love meat and I think it`s healthy to eat meat. People who eat meat are stronger than people who live on just vegetables.`
The Czech meal schedule starts with a hearty breakfast in the morning, followed by a rather heavy lunch during the afternoon break, then followed by dinner at around 6 to 7 o`clock. Lunch is the most important meal and it oftentimes consists of two hot courses. Schools, universities and big companies serve a selection of meals in their cantinas. Smaller companies hand out lunch vouchers which can be used to pay inexpensive two-course lunches in restaurants. Some people bring food from home, typically left-overs from the day before. Having a sandwich for lunch would be seen as quite strange. Tomas (24) says: `Maybe it could serve as some kind of fashion statement, somebody proudly stating that he or she is having sandwich for lunch!
Eating out is more popular for lunch than for dinner, and more popular in summer than in winter. Fast-food restaurants like McDonalds are seen as middle to upper-class restaurants. Snacks like hamburgers, or the more popular hotdogs and pizza slices are often more expensive and less filling than regular meals in Czech restaurants.
Meals are often accompanied by drinks. Children may drink milk, teenagers may opt for cola. Water and beer are however more commonly served with meals. Whoever drinks beer alongside a lunch, even on working days, does not need to fear he or she will be seen as an alcoholic, although some people would hesitate to do so in front of their boss.
Differences in taste
International cuisine is also finding its way into Czech Republic. `We have had Vietnamese and Chinese restaurants for quite a while now. Mexican, Greek and Italian restaurants are relatively new`, Klara (26) explains. I also ask her how Czech people can remain slim while eating quite greasy food. `Maybe we just eat smaller portions`, she suggests.
Antonin (23) thinks that Czechs are more sportive than inhabitants of other countries where fat food is common. `Few people seem to be very concerned about their weight. I know exactly two people who are following a diet: my grandfather because he has diabetes and my girlfriend`s grandmother for the same reason. There is no real diet culture here. Neither is there a trend that dictates that young women should lose weight or be particularly cautious about what they eat. Diets are prescribed by doctors for medical reasons and that`s it.`
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