Monday, May 31, 2010

Historic Food Images 3: From L'viv

Historic food images I purchased at the outdoor market in L'viv.  They appear to be relatively new photographic (not digital) reproductions of historic photos, with no location or other information.   But, a close look reveals some interesting things.  Above, market vendors, in L'viv, I believe, with products for sale.   The crack tells me it's from a glass plate negative, but I can't quite make out what the women are selling--nor do I know L'viv enough to identify the location.  Any guesses?

Here's a closer view in a different photo.  The strings remind me of the strings of dried mushrooms you still see sold here.  Or?

Just a very nice view of a Ukrainian village house.  Based on my limited knowledge,  directly over the fence is a flower garden, with a larger kitchen garden out back.    Today, in some Ukrainian villages houses are hidden behind solid, higher fences--so much harder to take a peek at someone's garden!

It's difficult, anywhere, to find nice photos of people just having ordinary, everyday meals, not holiday ones, not picnics.  So although I didn't know whether this was Ukraine or Poland or somewhere else,  I just enjoyed this man's informal table with his glass of wine and those familiar soup plates that usually contain borscht.  What do you see in this picture?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Market Report: Simferopol, End of May

Simferopol is in central Crimea, a peninsula in the south of Ukraine on the Black Sea.  Outside the city, all the way to the coast, huge orchards of all kinds of fruit trees and acres of vineyards, along with strawberry and other fields stretch away from the road.  And I saw the products of that rich agricultural landscape in the local market a week or so ago.

At the central market,  the green growing season was in full sway.  Spotted at the market were tiny new potatoes and young garlic, all kinds of greens, including mint, fresh peas, and the season's first strawberries (women along the roads were also selling fresh strawberries).

A more experienced market shopper told me that there's a direct correlation between the growing season and quality.  The first of any seasonal produce, like strawberries or tomatoes, are the most expensive; and as the season progresses,  the quality increases and the price decreases (and I assume the reverse happens as the season ends).

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

White Borscht?

Ukrainians love soup--and hardly a day goes by that they don't eat some.  And it's not Campbells, out of the can, but homemade.   Most familiar is a red borscht, but when I visited Anya's family's dacha, her mother Luda made a delicious soup, okroshka, also called white borscht.   It was served cool (by being kept in the root cellar) and the ingredients included buttermilk, cucumbers, potatoes, hard-boiled egg and spring onions.  Perfectly light and refreshing on a hot day. 

Interestingly, Anya tells me that in Russia, there is also a soup called okroshka,  but it is very different--made with kvas (a fermented beverage made from dark bread) and dried fish.  I'm sure it's tasty,  but Luda's homemade Ukrainian version was great.  Although now they eat it at the start of summer because cucumbers are always available in markets, Anya remembers when it was almost a celebration--the dish made when the first cucumbers arrived in the garden.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Babushka Natasha's Garden

This past weekend, my friend Anya invited me to her parent's dacha in Myrivka, a village about an hour's drive southeast of Kyiv.   Her mother Luda was gracious enough to take me to meet a couple villagers, so I could see a bit more of village life.  Above is Babushka Natasha--she's 85 and lives with her husband, a veteran of the Great Patriotic War, who's 89.  She gave me a tour of her garden, which is a great look into how one small woman feeds her family--and finds beauty--here in a village.

But first, her yard.  Village houses here all have fences and gates shutting them off from the street--but inside the small yard is where flower gardens most often are.  There were lilac bushes,  many different kinds of tulips, iris just starting to come up and more.  All kinds of flowers! I loved that her green thumb and love for flowers extended inside, to this beautiful geranium, and to beautiful rushnyky embroidered and cross-stitched by her which she carefully brought out to show us.

But now to the business end of the garden--the kitchen garden.  When I think of a kitchen garden, I imagine a small  plot, planted with herbs, etc (possibly too much time spent in and around US historic houses).  But here, kitchen gardens are serious things.   Here's an overall view:

Yes, that entire plot, including the wheat on the left, is her garden.  What's she growing?  Here's a partial list as I remember:
  • lots of potatoes
  • onions
  • carrots
  • pumpkins
  • tomatos
  • garlic
  • cucumbers
  • turnips or rutabagas
  • wheat

Ukrainians love fruit and fruit trees so Babushka Natasha also had a grape arbor and numerous fruit trees:  apple, apricot, cherry and pear.  Also raspberry bushes and the fruit that symbolizes Ukraine to many:  the kalyna.  Kalyna is a red berry, actually a kind of cranberry, much written about in poetry and song.    All these things--from the fruit trees and garden, are things that can be canned or put down in the root cellar for the winter to sustain Natasha and her husband until spring.

I'm a quite a bit of a lazy, very sporadic gardener myself and part of what was so impressive here (aside from the incredible black earth) was how perfect every single row in this garden was--not a weed to be found.  Natasha awakens every morning before sunrise this time of year and works all day long in the garden and around the house.   She was living proof of the time and effort it takes to really be sustainable in terms of food production.   And she's not the only one.  I looked across the fields and saw many women out at work, as the light began to fade into evening.
As we said our goodbyes,  Natasha thanked me for coming, and asked us to wait a moment--she then returned with a present for me--a plastic bag with a dozen or so fresh eggs gently nestled inside.   I rode with them on my lap back to Kyiv,  and the next morning, my poached eggs served as a reminder of Babushka Natasha, her generous, hard-working spirit, and her wonderful garden.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Market Report: First Week in May

Just a very quick look at what I saw at the market this past week, as full spring is here and summer rapidly approaches.   Many more greens of all types.

From above,  these were small, speckled eggs--Quail?  Ukrainians are avid gardeners, even in the city,  so the markets are now selling all kinds of plants, both flowers and vegetables.   And of course, pickled everything (even if the vendor does look tired of it).  This vendor is a generalist--cabbage, apples and dried fish.   And at the bottom, the staples, no matter what time of year:  potatoes, carrots, onions and cabbage.