The onset of the Industrial Revolution in the early 20th century was a time when a lot of peasants decided to head for the city in pursuit of happiness. Doing so changed their variety of food, eating habits and opportunities to eat. The first republic of Estonia also marked the start of a golden era in Estonian cuisine. Grocery stores and markets became part of the cityscape, and cafés and restaurants also started to be run by Estonians.
The Baltic herring was considered to be the most important fish in the local diet, but pike-perch, trout, pike and smelt (and herring in villages) were also represented. Coffee, rice, spices and cane sugar (in place of the honey and sugar made from vegetables that had been used before) became more widely available. The names of dishes also changed. For example, gruel, broth and potage were grouped under one title: soup. Cookbooks and cooking courses started to grow in popularity. Towns and cities became a place for café and restaurant culture.
All of the above-ground came to a halt after the Second World War, and the following period is known for its stagnation in the history of Estonian culinary culture. Day-to-day eating habits changed and canteens offering the same dishes at the same prices across the board were introduced. People went to restaurants to dance with and talk to one another rather than to enjoy the food, and the dishes did not stand out in any special way.
This stagnation lasted until the restoration of the republic. After the reopening of our borders, we were again greeted with new flavours and products, innovative cooking techniques, and chefs from other countries. This period became the generation of our older chefs today.
A new century meant new beginnings in the world of food, drawing more attention to new ingredients, cooking techniques and technologies. Exciting new cuisines and flavours from all over the world also reached our shores. Today we produce our own ingredients and we are proud to be home to a lot of reputable chefs and unique eateries. This connects us to the rest of the world without us forgetting our own food traditions.