Summer is an ideal time for outdoor parties. We in Slovakia love them. They often take the form of cooking competitions like the one I described in the post on Goulash parties last year.
But it’s not only goulash that you can get to taste when touring Slovakia in the summer. A long thread of outdoor cooking events starts as early as May, shortly after sheep are taken to the pastures for the first time in the year. The general public is invited to salashes (wooden cottages close to the pastures), where shepherds live and work until late September. The new season will open with a meal of mutton goulash and a drink of žinčica (a by-product of sheep’s milk cheese fermentation).
You can often sample freshly made sheep’s milk cheese on these occasions, as well as our beer.
On the first Sunday in June, when the Shepherds’ Festival takes place in the village of Východná, you will not only hear a tinkle of hand-made sheep bells, but also see our national dish of Halušky s bryndzou being made from scratch.
Around 24th June, when the name of Ján (Slovak for John) is celebrated in the Slovak calendar, you can experience svätojánske ohne or St. John’s Bonfires. They’re organised by some village communitites, and they always come with good music, local specialities and sometimes even a fire show.
If your Slovak friends invite you to an outdoor ‘opekanie’ event, don’t miss the occasion. It’s a Slovak version of picnic and it involves frying a sausage or a chunk of bacon on a spit over an open fire. You can end up frying slices of bread, onions or anything that’s left at the end of the party.
There are dozens of music, dancing and food festivals all over the country in July and August. At the end of the summer, celebrations of summer harvest take place in many of our towns and villages.
The old tradition of outdoor plum jam cooking is coming back to the Slovak countryside as a day of shared cooking fun, singing and dancing.
However, this is not the end of the outdoor cooking season. Autumn will bring still more open-air gatherings where good, home-made food and a warming drink is never absent.