The 19th century peasant reforms helped improve the everyday diet of our ancestors and laid the foundations of our national cuisine as we know it today. The most important part of our national cuisine is unquestionably cereal foods, including Mulgi porridge.
Bread has always had an important place in our diet. Estonians learned to make leavened rye bread already in the 11th-13th century.
Vegetable dishes, fish dishes (salted fish) and pork dishes, including Mulgi cabbage stew, have dominant part in the diet. There are also wild berries, mushrooms, nuts, honey (Eesti rahvusköök, 2004).
When speaking of a national cuisine we should not forget about the drinks – the most important is kvass, also taar ( a fermented beverage) and beer, and recently more and more popular birch and maple tree sap.
Mulks have left a significant mark on the Estonian traditional cuisine. Even today, Estonians love Mulgi porridge, Mulgi cabbage stew, Mulgi curd cake and kama.
In 1880, when people started buying farms there was a bigger migration wave in the country. Mulks settled in many places all over Estonia and brought along their food culture.
Potato-groats porridge was called Mulgi porridge, Southern Estonian thick cabbage stew with groats is also known as Mulgi cabbages stew, in Northern Viljandi county, curd cakes and kama was considered a food that Mulks had introduced, Mulks also brought mixed kama in Viljandi, Tartu and Võru counties.
Innovations in cooking and table manners were taken over from several places. Most of the innovations were brought in by peasant girls who were working in manor houses as servants. At the end of the 19th century, Estonian magazines also started publishing different instructions and advices for household and cooking. This also affected the current food culture.
In 1911, Marie Sapas started household and gardening courses in Liplapi in Halliste parish which were held regularly until in 1926.
The well-known Estonian national food kama comes from Mulgi cuisine. In the 19th century, kama was made mostly from oat. Mulks gave us mixed kama or Mulgi kama. When moving in different places in Estonia, Mulks introduced their mixed kama to others. Mulgi kama mixture contained barley, oats, rye, wheat, peas and beans (Moora, 2007).
Kama flour was added to sour milk with a pinch of salt. For kama cake (kamakäkk) you needed to add some more flour. The liquid kama was then eaten with salted fish and bread.
It seems that over time Mulgi food culture has had several innovative additions but the main principles of dishes have remained the same and popular family dishes have not been replaced by more modern food culture.
Mulgi dishes have found a place in each Estonian’s table, and this is because of active Mulks who kindly introduced their cuisine to the rest of Estonians.