From Mother Russia with Love: A Monster of a Stove and Tolokno

You can’t cook porridge with a fool. ~~ Russian Proverb ~~ An example of Russian Lenten food, tolokno or oat flour with liquid, demonstrates the use of the astonishing Russian stove. Streamlined in the 15th century, the Russian stove incarnates the old adage, “The kitchen is the heart of the home.” Much of Russian peasant…

From Mother Russia with Love: The Domostroi

Cabbage soup and gruel are our food. (Shchi da kasha, pishche nashe.) ~~Russian peasant proverb Trying to ferret out tidbits about Russian food history can be tough going. Aside from the language barrier, anyone interested in Russian culinary history suffers from a major weakness: there is a terrible lack of written material contemporaneous with Forme…

From Mother Russia with Love: A Fish in Every Pie

The kulebyaka should be appetizing, shameless in its nakedness, a temptation to sin. ~~ Anton Chekov, “The Siren” Fish dishes abound in Russian cuisine, in large part because of the Russian Orthodox Church’s strict rules on fasting during Lent other times of the year. But we cannot ignore the simple fact that fish thrive in…

From Mother Russia with Love: Kulich and Paskha and Easter

Because Russian Orthodox Easter falls on the same day this year (2010) as the Western Easter, it seems appropriate to include recipes for Russia’s most well-known Easter sweets: Kulich, a tall puffy “baba” or sweet-bread cousin to Italian Panettone (maybe with phallic overtones and fertility in mind?) and Paskha, a cheesecake-like dairy-rich concoction eaten with…

From Mother Russia with Love: Meaty Mushrooms and Relentless Lent

One of her greatest pleasures in summer was the very Russian sport of hodit’ po gribi (looking for mushrooms). Fried in butter and thickened with sour cream her delicious finds appeared regularly on the dinner table. Not that the gustatory moment mattered much. Her main delight was in the quest. ~~ Vladimir Nabokov, Speak, Memory…

From Mother Russia with Love: Great Lent, the Beginning

Many years ago, a high school history teacher of mine asked our class to write down everything we knew about Russia within the space of about 30 minutes. Most people wrote a brief paragraph, describing the red Communist flag with its hammer and sickle. Some delved a little into the cruelty of the tsars and…

From Russia with Love: Cooking Utensils

The theme of next year’s Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery centers around “Food and Material Culture.” The spoons captured my interest and so I decided to take a quick peek at other utensils. I never get tired of looking at the tools that people created for cooking their food, food that gave them the…

Culinaria Russia: A Picture Cookbook for Grownups

I’ve only known two Russian cooks in my life. First there was Olga, the cook who sustained me during my Peace Corps years, whose Russian roots rarely extended to the table of her Paraguayan pension. Always tripe and manioc and beef à caballo, never borscht or blini or piroshki. Sometimes meat laced with chimichurri, a…