The different historical rulers of the region – Danes, Swedes, Germans and Russians – have influenced Estonian traditional cuisine over the centuries.
Modern cuisine, eating habits, food, and ways of cooking are similar to those in other Nordic countries. Depending on the rhythm of life, different Estonians also have different preferences in meal times and meals. Typically Estonians have a light breakfast before going to work or school. Between noon and three o’clock they have their most important meal of the day – lunch. Some prefer red meat and potato porridge, thick flour or bacon sauce, and others prefer light soups, salads, pasta, chicken and fish dishes. Pizza and American and Chinese fast food are also available. Dinner usually takes place around six or seven o’clock in the evening. Since people have more time than during the day, they might use it to relax and enjoy a hearty meal or they might have a small snack before or after working out in the gym.
Traditional meals include barley porridge with sour milk, or boiled unpeeled potatoes with curds or salted Baltic herring or smoked herring; on festive days butter, brawn, roast pork, sauerkraut, fried cabbage or black pudding are served. The traditional dishes and customs are still in use during the more significant festivals of the folk calendar, the most important being Christmas. Practically every Estonian is still very fond of black rye bread.
The schedule and financial resources of a student are quite different from those of modern businessmen and women; therefore they usually prefer something quick and cheap. Many higher education institutions have canteens where the price range of dishes is affordable for students. Some pubs, diners and pizzerias have special student dishes or prices. The simplest, cheapest and most famous student meal is fried potatoes – but for healthy nutrition of the mind and body it is strongly recommended to spend some money every day on a balanced meal, together with fresh fruit and vegetables.