What comes to your mind when you think of your kindergarten or school breakfasts? My daughter and I reminisced on these and other childhood related things during the lockdown imposed by our goverment after the first coronavirus cases had been reported in Slovakia.
Despite the relatively mild course of the disease in my country, we were asked to stay at home and limit our social contacts to the closest family. We just had to accept things as they were without thinking too much ahead.
Cooking and baking were some of the activities we turned our minds to. Beeing back home after studying abroad, my daughter asked for simple things she enjoyed as a schoolgirl. We cooked comforting creamy soups, light vegetarian dishes, and fruit cakes.
I spent quite a lot of time talking on the phone with my 77-year old mum about old recipes I was going to recreate. And the first ‘dish’ my sister and I made when we were little girls.
I don’t know whose idea it was but we decided to cook noodles while we were off sick from kindergarten. Mum had given us a piece of old elastic band to substitute the dough and slipped out to buy some groceries. We promptly cut the elastic into strips with scissors, put it in a plastic cup and off it went on the electric cooker. Fortunately, mum returned just as the cup started thawing, but she did have hard time cleaning the ring.
Another memory my mind still retains is of kindergarten breakfasts or, to be more precise, of a cup of warm cocoa drink mum would give us before walking us to the kindergarten. She had to be at work at six, which meant leaving home half asleep in the dark. That cup of cocoa kept us going till kindergarten breakfast was served at eight. I still make myself a mug of warm cocoa when I feel low.We were luckier as schoolgirls. Our classes commenced at 8 o’clock and the school was just round the corner, so we could have a nice, relaxed breakfast at home. It was usually bread and butter with a cup of tea or – yes, you guessed it – a warm cocoa drink. Sometimes we spread honey or homemade jam on top of our slice.
As a teenage girl, I commuted to the lycée about a 45-minute bus ride from our small town, and because I had to be there before 8am, there was no time for breakfast. Instead, my mum would give me a few ‘korunas’ to buy myself something to eat before school.
The most popular places to have breakfast, snack or a cold buffet lunch back then were ‘milk bars’. They were frequented by students and working people alike, and there was always hot milk, cocoa or ‘white coffee’ (roasted chicory drink mixed with milk) on the breakfast menu, plus a selection of breads and pastries. Butter rolls in the shape of crescents would be the most common addition to my cup of cocoa at the time.
On weekends, my working mum had more time on hand, so she would bake bábovka to have for a Sunday breakfast or as a snack.
Food was never wasted in my family. If we didn’t manage to eat bread in the week, mum would slice and soak it in whipped eggs, then pan-fry it to serve for breakfast. This ‘bread in egg’ was a well-known thing in many other families. I’d say the generation I grew up with in the socialistic Czecho-Slovakia was constantly made aware of the value of things. Our parents knew very well what little food they’d had to survive during the World War 2.
It was only after the Fall of Communism in Eastern Europe that the fashion of breakfast cereals soaked in a bowl of cold milk arrived in Slovakia. We jumped on the wave and were mad about buying all sorts of CiniMinis, Chocapics and Rice Crispies to follow the trend which, fortunately, didn’t last for too long.
Now we are back to bread and butter, occasional ham or salami, sweet and savoury pastries, yoghurt or other fermented dairies. There is a difference between the modern breakfasts and those from my childhood though; the choice of breads, pastries, yoghurts and dairies is much wider, and it includes gluten-free and lactose-free options – something I wouldn’t hear about in my time.