The study of traditional food, both in the historical and ethnological point of view, has made great strides in decades. There are a number of studies on specific areas of Albanian ethnology. Studies on nutrition are preceded by the publications with general knowledge on cooking or the culinary features of different countries, or with practical hints about nutrition.
In the second half of the twentieth century there comes the publication of a series of works that mark important an turning point in the history of ethnology of food, as are: Claude Levi Strauss "L'origine des manieres de table", Paris 1968, or works of F. Braudel's "Capitalism and material life in 1400-1800", Glasgow 1974, etc. A very useful study was performed by the Mediterrenean University Center of the University of Nice (France), etc.
Albanians economy was based mainly on agriculture and livestock. This was consequently bringing in the food tradition, which consisted mainly of dairy products. Generally milk and its products were the main ingredients of Albanian tables.
A little history on nutrition in Europe and in the world
The first phase is generally considered the period of nomadic hunters and gatherers of prehistory, which lasted more than 20 million years. It began with anthropoid apes, which had a mostly vegetable food, enriched further by the "homo erectus", which began to use animal protein because it already ate insects, bird eggs and small animals. Then it came the most primitive tools and work weapons, which made up the basis of hunting for food. But the most important turinign point was undoubtedly the discovery of fire, 300-400 thousand years before the CE, which brought an essential improvement of food. Fire became the starting point for the development of food technology but also for establishing gender and family ties.
Another phase is represented by the transition to non-nomadic agriculture, because it allowed the creation of food reserves, a period that reaches far before the eighth century. r. This period is marked by the cultivation of primitive species of cereals (millet, barley, wheat), which gradually spread to Europe, coming from the Middle East and Central Asia. The same thing happened with the taming of animals, sheep, goats etc. With the passing of time, millet was replaced by barley, which was gradually replaced by wheat. Already cultivated in gardens plants became edibale by men. Although agriculture has already provided a big part of food, hunting was still exercised compliment it.
In the period since 800 first. r to 500 first year. r there is an intensification of food products provided by agriculture and so ancient Greek-Roman world continued to consume mainly cereals. In Mediterranean Europe grain was consumed more. Other nutrients were consisting of cheese, fish, olives, the fluid that was a deriving from diluted and fermented honey. Begin to mitigate different types of wild fruit such as apples, plums, cherries, and some mana land. In ancient civilization meat was not only baked on a spit but was also boiled. The year 500 until the year 1300 is characterized by the peasant masses migrations towards the urban centers. There were already started to recognize some areas that provided new surplus of millet and rice. In the two following centuries there was noticed a restructuring of food products. There were added pastures, animals and therefore meat consumption for the poor people. this reached the peak period in the cities of the Middle Ages.
In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the nutrition diet was affected by several factors. There is a break from the food repertoire of the Middle Ages and a sophistication in the eating habits, as a result of the influence of the feudal culture. Then there comes the impact of the global market, especially after the discovery of the American continent and the discovery of the western route to India, when a new range of food items flow into Europe (spices, pepper, sugarcane, and then corn, potato, tomato , peas, as well as cocoa, coffee, tea, etc.
Here's how, landscape painter Edward Lear describes his dinner to the three-tails pasha in Shkodra in the middle of the nineteenth century:
"I Counted thirty-seven dishes, served according to the habbits in Turkey, one after another, and then grew tired counting (assuming that the feast would continue all day long) though I think there were twelve or fourteen others. But nothing was more surprising than blending unrelated offered food: lamb, honey, fish, fruit; baked, boiled, fried; vegetables, meat; of fresh, salted, marinated; strong; oil, pepper; liquid; the sweet, sour, hot, cold- in a strange combination, although the constituent elements were often very high quality. Nor had served a sequence in accordance with the European notion - colorful sweets came shortly after the fish with the sauce and followed by steak, honey and cakes; pears, peaches; crab, ham, boiled lamb, cakes, chocolate, garlic and chicken; cheese, rice, soup, strawberries, salmon - trout and cauliflower - this was really the chaos of a dinner ".
The period from the mid nineteenth century onwards is considered as the period of modern mass consumption, as the production, distribution, storage and preparation of food, was affected by significant structural changes. Overproduction of food overconsumption brought the collapse of local traditions.
Luxury foods could be considered as the period's major innovations in Europe during 1680-1770. The most important innovations were the introduction of hot drinks, the direction of tastes to spice for sweets, intruduction of new meals and changing of the previous ones, the development of cafés as bourgeois culture centers.
The period from 1770 to the middle of the nineteenth century is characterized by a comprehensive popularization of new foods with luxury ones. It is curios the replacement of bread with potato, coffee and tea consumtion in all strata of the population.
Food traditions in Albania.
The traditional food of any country in general, has been conditioned by the its soil and climate, from the height of the house settlements and the level of economic and social development. Obviously, this also appied for Albania, because the basic food items were provided by agricultural and livestock products.
In this period the main food item was already bread. In most provinces was consumed corn bread, cooked without yeast, made with cold water, and often without salt. The use of corn bread was undoubtedly linked with the spread of this agricultural crop in Albania.
Obviously in Albania there were many other areas where rural women were making very good bread of different types, either simply with wheat flour, or by cornstarch. To prepare the necessary dough it was needed a good amount of filtered flour, lukewarm water, a little salt and a piece of fermented dough, called seed, yeast or simply dough. After this mixture was treated, it was left for a while "to come", thus to be fermented a little and to swollen. Then it was divided into loafs or thrown into copper baking pan or "çerepë" in different ways, with saç baking or special baking ovens, which were present everywhere in rural dwellings. As a simple bun, the bread could be even baked directly on the hearth, covered with hot ashes and embers. Besides the daily bread, in many other areas there was also prepared festive ritual bread, which was given to the women after childbirth, or the wedding loaves. These kind of bread was made in a sweet taste and decorated in different shapes. On the above layer they were coated with egg yolk to take a reddish picture. In northern Albania, Has area residents are known as good bakers and have traditionally exercised the profession in many urban centers of the Central Balkans.
To harvest grain farmers used a scythe, sickle or "stork". Scythe had a long stick and blade of steel which was worked by blacksmiths. Sickle was shaped as the moon with wooden handle. "Stork" is the provincial label because it is a sickle but with a bigger size. It was mainly used in mountainous areas.
To storage grain babrune were applied (p.sh: no. Inventory 4210). Babrune is a round wood, carved from within, with lid and a side handle. This was carved by the the pine wood by the residents themselves.
Pulp processing was done in the magjen that appears in the picture. The craft (i.e.: no. Inventory 4200) has had widespread use in Albanian families. It has been used to compress and brew the bread. It has the shape of a Lugjut and was carved by the residents. Its dimensions vary relatively 01.30 cm x 70 cm - 50 cm x 80 cm. The craft served to throw also the "harapash" a kind of very favorite dish for the Labe, that was brewed with cornstarch, lamb casing, butter and oregano. In different areas this object has different names, such as in Tropojë - Majah flour, Dukagjini and Great Highland - crate of bread, Myzeqeja - granary bread, Tomorrica - barn, witchcraft, Kora - Majah.
Once baked, the bread was placed in qeh (i.e: no. Inventory 4191), or on the end bakery. Its overall diameter was of 40-70 cm, with a round shape and long tail. In Dukagjin there was no family that had two qehë in their kitchens. This object has different names in different areas such as Great Malesia - fleece, Dukagjinë - end bakery, Myzeqe - june, Tomorricë and Debar - "Palare", Korce and Debar - ostagac, Matt - m'qeth.
Many other dishes were prepered with dough and fat basis, such as. flija, qullra different, pancakes etc. In the nutrition diet of Albanian people boiled and strongly squeezed wheat had a very common use and was prepared in the event to commemorate the deads, thus it was a ritual food. "Ashura" has been another wheat-based food, which was prepared for festive occasions.
For the village, the most important food item after bread were the dairy products, which were consumed throughout the year, in different ways. Milk was mainly used to eat breakfast. By beating milk, butter and buttermilk were deriving. Milk could become yogurt. Processed yougurt could become sour buttermilk, a cool drink for summer. The yogurt squeezed through cheesecloth, become sour cream. Curd was prepared by the hirra e djathit. The greasy part of the cream of milk, was becoming butter.
For the preparation of milk products it was used the shaker or the churn (i.e: no. Inventory 4202). This object resembles to talerën, another object that was used for the preparation of milk. The size of the churn was narrower and longer than Thaler. Sheka (p.sh: no. Inventory 4211) was used to keep the dairy. It had similiar shape to the milk ..... to a milk container for milking. The wooden conteinor was carved by the residents out of pine and was carrying approximately 20 to 50 kg of milk. Pitcher also was an item where women use to carry milk. It was carved by the residents with pine but also with cherry. In the north, saying "thaler of xanun" because of the cover on top. Other items to keep milk were cups (i.e: no. Inventory 4242) also crafted by the residents. This was worked with wood and therefore have very thick walls. Cups also serve to keep other dishes, so it was used as a pot, too.
Meat was consumed more during the winter months. By the end of autumn, the majority of families slaughtered a calf or lamb which was kept salted and dried to be consumed little by little. The places close to the coast but also those near rivers were consuming fish, gudgeons, eels.
Regarding the use of vegetables in the daily diet of the peasantry, it must be said that there were large differences from one area to another. In mountainous areas, the use of vegetables has been limited, mainly onion, leek, garlic, white cabbage, pepper, beans, peas, but more beans. In central Albania, boiled beans in the soup crock made up almost the daily dishes.
Olive has been another assortment in Albanian food. Honey has also been widely used in the food of Albanians. Residents of various provinces delt with the growth and breeding of bees and also its marketing.
The most common beverage in the Albanian table was water. But obviously wine has been one of the beverages used since ancient times and up to date. Residents produced wine themselves out of the grapes. It takes time to prepare this drink, in certain areas of Albania, as Përmeti, Skrapari, Tepelenë etc. Boza also has been a favorite drink, refreshing in summer. It is made from oats or flour fermented corn. Ardalli was a kind of drink that is produced mainly in northeastern Albania, which was a juice extracted from wild apples and lightly fermented. Rehania, boiled grape juice with a bit of sour taste which is produced mainly in the area of Skrapar. Raki is also a preferred drink of Albanians, which is produced from white grapes. But Albanians also produce raki out of plums, said, apple, walnut.
Sofra or Tërvezë (i.e: no. Inventory 4192) never misses and always comes out when we serve. Sofra has a round shape and is based on two or four legs. People of Dukagjini when building it aim to build the dining table with just one stick. When the dining table is built by several pieces, her legs are trapping all the component pieces. The height of the dining table is relatively 20cm - 30 cm and 30 cm and the diameter is relatively 30- 150 cm. Sofra is worked mainly by residents out of pine wood. It is made for any occasion, to treat friends, deaths, weddings and other festivities. Women always dealt with serving the dining tables. When the dining table is served and until the bread is placed on it, one of the family members puts the hand or another object over it in order not to leave the place empty because it was believed "barakat flyes away". At the top of the dining table sits the oldest member of the family or the master of the house, "babazoti", "father". Then sit by age and importance they had at home the other members. When a guest was visiting, he was given the honor of sitting on the side of the householder. If there were many friends visiting, as when they were coming as affinity or other holidays, they were allowed to sit by importance, whether economic, legal and moral they had in the province. In the dining table sit around 10-12 people. Men sit cross-legged, while women sit in their knees. Handkerchiefs were not used for each member of the dining table, but around it rolled a long piece of fabric which served mainly to protect their clothes from possible staints of cooking. Food and dishes were served as prepared, in the baking pan, sini, (i.e: no inventory 3213), sahanë copper (i.e: no inventory 4355), wood blud (i.e: No. 4242 inventory, etc.).