Seto food culture

Above all, the annual cycle of Seto foods reflected the rhythms of nature, and church holidays as well, which are numerous in the Orthodox calendar. Aspects specific to the Seto culture are the practices of blessing of food in church and eating in cemeteries. Households prepared their finest food and most lavish spreads for church holidays and family celebrations.

Compared to Estonian foods, fasting foods play an important role in Seto cuisine. The fasts were long and rigorously observed, and thus meat dishes were not prominent on the Seto menu.

Dairy products and mushrooms were key elements in the Seto diet. The Setos also consumed plenty of fish. In years past, dehydration was the main method of preservation: it was used for mushrooms, berries, other fruit and fish. Even curds and sõir were dried.

Food preparation methods are another particular feature of Seto cuisine. Food was cooked in a large oven that was never stoked without good reason. Invariably, a dish would be placed in the oven to slow-cook or bake. Ovens were used to make porridge, soup, meat dishes, boiled potatoes, breads and pastries and more.

Many of the special characteristics of Seto cuisine have survived into the present and been revived in the last decade. The signature food of Seto cuisine these days is sõir, a homemade pressed fresh curd cheese. Be sure to try sõir when visiting the region, and remember it is not a cheese you slice for sandwiches, but a celebratory food served as a separate dish