Loach – the poor’s fish
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Wielkopolska (the Greater Poland region) is an area extremely abounding with lakes of glacial origin as well as with the developed river network. In accordance with the rules of survival the settlements were located over the water bodies – therefore these areas were populated quite early. Fishing – apart from gathering – is a primitive way of obtaining food. It constituted the basis of nutrition for people in the past. At the beginning it was associated with gatherers and hunters, then with farmers for whom it became a marginal way of securing food. Additionally, fishing among the inhabitants of Greater Poland was pushed on to the sidelines by a monopoly of the ruler as well as by feudal privileges concerning an access to waters. The fishermen’s guilds as well as leasing the lakes and rivers limited considerably former common access to fish. The title – “Loach – the poor’s fish” – makes an explicit reference to some old Polish proverbs saying that: A loach for the poor here, there and everywhere (Chudobie wszędy piskorz) or Wherever the poor appear, not more than a loach do they get (Ubogiemu wszędzie ledwo piskorz się dostaje). It is a point of departure for proving a thesis about the decreasing percentage of fish in the diet of peasantry in Greater Poland. Loach, a small fish, once quite widespread in the muddy ditches and in the overgrowing old river-beds, preying in the dark, was available to the poorer part of the society in case of threat of hunger. Because of the restrictions which were being introduced over the centuries, very seldom did peasantry and common people pay attention to fish turning to fishing only in the conditions of threat (of hunger, disease or death). Mechanism of obtaining food seems to have been simple once: dishes were prepared with the use of products which were easily accessible and gained through one’s own efforts. Greater Poland, as an agricultural region, used the fruits of the earth. The conditions mentioned above contributed to the fact that a peculiar diet came into being. This diet, even in case of fasting periods, so frequent in the past, considered fish to a very small extent.
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