Traditions of the Great Lent originate from ancient Orthodox Christians. Also known as the Great Fast, the Great Lent is a time of physical cleansing and spiritual introspection. Observers adhere to abstinence from certain foods and indulgences for over 40 days.
Bringing the physical and spiritual into balance through fasting, prayer, and repentance, the Great Lent is a time to experience a deeper closeness and connection with God.
Physically, fasting means depriving ourselves of certain foods and lifestyle choices. Cutting out meat and other animal products allows our bodies to detox and experience a lighter state of being.
Abstaining from wine and other alcoholic drinks brings enhanced clarity to the mind. Although in the Slavic tradition, beer was often permitted during the fast.
Spiritually, the deep introspection and mediation opens the door for an individual to receive the Holy Mysteries of the Divine. In moral terms, the Great Lent is about coming into integrity with our words. Understanding the value of the spoken and written word, and honoring the words of Jesus.
The ultra pious here to a strict interpretation of what is and is not allowed in terms of food during the Great Lent.That’s a pretty easy feat in today’s day and age where food is readily available. But what about back in the days before frozen dinners at the supermarkets and fish tacos at fast-food joints?
What did people eat during Great Lent?
Imagine a Lent Faire where vegetables, fruits and grains rein supreme.
Tradition Russian foods prepared and eaten during Great Lent included pohlebka — a type of vegetable soup. Soured or pickled vegetables like pickled cucumbers, pickled tomatoes, sauerkraut, and beets.
Turya a dish made with salted water, bread pieces and chopped onions; Tolokno, a porridge of sprouted oats and salt water; Kulesh, a thin gruel made from peas, potatoes and groats with no animal fats.
Other foods consumed during lent included dry and pickled mushrooms, peas, radishes, carrots, cranberries, apples, honey and various fruit jams.
What are some popular Great Lent recipes?
Modern times have ushered in new recipes for Great Lent, using fresh ingredients and more nuanced (and dare we say delicious!) flavor profiles.
Below are a few of our favorite and simple to make, traditional Russian Great Lent recipes.