The kitchen of Straupe Horse Mail

Straupe Rural Goods Market. Slow Food. Latvian ancient cuisine from local farmers’ products. Food with a background and history.

In the territory of Latvia, a system of horse mail stations operated for about 250 years, and it was introduced during the Swedish period – the king wanted to be informed about what was happening in his lands. In 1639, the Swedish Governor issued a decree to Vidzeme that there should be pubs with stables, as well as horses and carts for mail and passenger carriage along roads at specific intervals. Manor pub buildings were adapted to this need. At the end of the 17th century a letter from Riga to Stockholm travelled for nine to ten days. There were only 15 minutes to replace the horses, there was a strict procedure. In the meantime, people could eat and warm up in winter, which was sometimes a matter of life or death.

Nowadays, hostess Baiba Smilga takes care of the hungry ones at the Straupe Horse Mail house. She prepares Latvian meals from the local farmers’ goods, drawing ideas from old recipe books and ancient traditions. Soups, sauerkraut and other vegetables boil in large pots, hearty porridges are getting ready. Baiba likes to add some interesting spices to the large pot, the use of which has changed over time, such as a pinch of coriander seeds. Occasionally, she tries adding a spice to main courses that is usually added to desserts.

Baiba likes to cook food that has its own background. They are discovered by various historical projects, such as through exploring the food of Hanseatic League and Livonia within the scope of the Culinary Road of Livonia. In the autumn of 2018, a cranberry market day was held in a Livonian pub-like atmosphere. Baiba cooked pearl soup, pork shank, sweet willow-catkin porridge and hot cranberry drink, encouraging to try the healthy in more unusual ways.

Baiba has repeatedly represented the Slow Food Straupe movement in the prestigious world-wide event Terra Madre (Mother Earth) and Salone der Gusto (Taste Salon) in Italy, Turin, where, together with the chef Ēriks Dreibants, led the Latvian food master classes – preparing both buberbert and several kinds of dishes from our beans.

On the first and third Sunday of each month, you can meet Baiba in Straupe Horse Mail Market, where she offers delights in a tempting scent of clouds. Vegetarians are also welcome – meat-free meals are always on offer.