Vareno Zhito

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

vareno zhito a Bulgarian boiled wheat dish with nuts, sugar, and lemon juice. Maria Kaneva-Johnson (1995) explains that Zhito and the Serbo-Croat Zhito stem from the Old Slavonic žita meaning cereals or wheat, itself derived from žit, life (underlining the true significance of cereals, particularly of wheat, for all Slavic peoples).

She goes on to say:

This flavourful mixture of wheat grains, sugar and nuts has gathered unto itself a host of ritual functions and meanings. It is possibly of pre-Christian Slavonic origin, but was adopted by the Eastern Orthodox Church and introduced into the cult of the dead. It is offered at funerals, memorial services and on All Soul’s Day to churchgoers, in small spoonfuls on clean paper napkins. Small bowlfuls are afterwards sent to all the neighbours.