Hooked on Carp, Czechs Keep Yuletide Custom Alive ; on a Fish Farm in South Bohemia, a Family Renews Its Tradition of Raising the Stars of the Christmas Table

By Farnam, Arie | The Christian Science Monitor, December 24, 2001 | Go to article overview

Hooked on Carp, Czechs Keep Yuletide Custom Alive ; on a Fish Farm in South Bohemia, a Family Renews Its Tradition of Raising the Stars of the Christmas Table


Farnam, Arie, The Christian Science Monitor


Men in mud-splattered rubber trousers stand in small flat boats drawn into a tight circle. They give a joyous shout, and their long poles rise and fall, slapping the icy black water in a rhythm that is a thousand years old.

This is how the Christmas season begins in the Czech Republic - with boisterous fishermen's jokes, Thermoses of hot tea, and the carp harvest.

On a rock overlooking the pond, Jan Hofbauer, one of the last proud carp barons of South Bohemia, directs the fishing operation by hand signals. His life's work, like that of his forefathers, has been to bring Christmas dinner to thousands of Czech families.

While in other parts of the world carp is considered an unclean pest or, at best, a poor-man's fish with a foul-smelling, low- quality meat, here it is the center of the Christmas feast.

"Czechs have eaten carp at Christmas for as long as history remembers," Hofbauer says, "and the way we do carp, it is delicious."

The fish is usually fried, often breaded, and the classic Christmas recipe, called carp black, is dressed up with a dark plum sauce.

Time-tested techniques

Hofbauer and his crew of village men use the same techniques their ancestors have used for centuries.

First, the pond is slowly drained. Then, the men use nets and poles to round up the fish in shallow water and scoop them into baskets, where they are carefully sorted into those that can be sold this year and those that must spend another winter under the ice.

Czech scientists say that carp can survive very harsh conditions but only reach their full potential in size and flavor when given special care. While species of carp have taken over tepid waters in North America only to produce undersized and unsavory offspring, Czech carp often weigh as much as 10 pounds and have a fine, buttery taste.

The difference lies primarily in the labor-intensive methods of farmers like Hofbauer and the complex system of ponds where the fish are raised - a process that takes three to four years.

Of 23,000 man-made ponds in the Czech Republic, 95 percent of them are used to farm carp. A local fish-farming system consists of dozens of ponds interconnected by gates and channels that bring in fresh water in the spring, drain and clean the ponds in the fall, and keep fish sorted and sheltered through the winter.

"Carp have to be raised in these pond systems and fed natural cereals," says Martin Flajshans, a scientist at the Research Institute of Fish Culture and Hydrobiology in South Bohemia. "Carp raised any other way have jelly-like meat, smelling of mud and algae."

The carp's tale

The first written record of this kind of carp farming in the Czech lands dates from the 11th century, when Roman Catholic monasteries began cultivating fish for food during Lent. It quickly developed into a closely guarded Czech trade.

Today, induction into the fisherman's guild still requires a frigid initiation, which includes an oath to serve the patron saints of fishing, a dunking in ice-cold water, and a swift spanking with an ornate wooden paddle.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Hooked on Carp, Czechs Keep Yuletide Custom Alive ; on a Fish Farm in South Bohemia, a Family Renews Its Tradition of Raising the Stars of the Christmas Table
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.