Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Women at Work: Selling What You Grow

Sarah and I have noticed that a huge percentage of our Kickstarter backers are women--and we think that's rightfully so, as a great deal of the Pickle Project really is about women as well.  Of course, one thinks of women as cooking and preserving, but this post is about those women, at stalls in indoor markets, lined up outdoors outside the indoor markets, or even just outside a subway stop, who sell fresh produce from their gardens, the woods and fields.    They're a group that your support on Kickstarter will help us learn more about when we return but I wanted to share some initial thoughts and images here.
People, primarily women, sell an amazing variety of hand-produced goods on the street.  I've purchased a handmade willow basket outside a subway and hand-painted wooden and real eggs around Easter time outside churches--on Willow Sunday, long lines of women sell bouquets of pussy willows outside churches and cathedrals.  My first time in Ukraine I lived in a big Soviet bloc apartment building and every Saturday morning, in the tiny courtyard of these buildings, 4-5 cars would pull up, open their trunks and sell meat, milk and produce.   Several times I took an early morning train out of Kyiv, and as the train left, I could see long lines of women walking from a bus stop, heading into the city, with their plaid market bags full of things to sell.  They must have left their own homes incredibly early to be in place as morning rush begins.
A block from my apartment last spring, in the center of Kyiv, two women marked the seasons with their small display of produce displayed on cartons:  walnuts, as winter ebbed away, and then beautiful strawberries, raspberries and cherries, along with lettuce and herbs.  At the market outside Lukianivs'ka metro station, there are indoor market vendors, with regular stalls, but a long line-up of women and men sell small stores of everything from ducks and eggs to flowering plants, to homemade pickles and sauces, everything carefully packed to come from the village to the city.
I think of these women as babushkas, as grandmothers, and many of them are.  But perhaps equal numbers are younger women, also working to support families.  I came to admire Ukrainian women a great deal during my time there--because they are incredibly hard workers taking on a great deal of work in order to support their families in a country where the economic crisis and post-Soviet independence have meant extremely strained finances for many families.  And women in Ukraine, like in many countries, have not only responsibility for family and home, but also for generating income.  Street vendors, of course, have none of the workplace protections that still exist for many in Ukraine. 
Customer service is still an emerging concept in Ukraine:  dealings with grouchy post office, railroad and other types of employees are often the norm.  But what I found surprising and touching was that street vendors, the women with the fewest resources, in difficult circumstances, were often the people most likely to give me a great smile and a bit of conversation as they wrapped up their beautiful berries.   I don't want to romanticize this in any way, but rather to wonder whether this bit of independence, helping to support your family by what you grow or make,  supports not only the family budget, but also a deeper part of life.
And just a reminder:  your pledge to the Pickle Project made before 5:00 PM Eastern time, on February 1 will help us meet our goal, return to Ukraine, and learn more about the women whose stories deserve to be told.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Official T-Shirt

Yes, it's true.  Supporters at the $50 level or above on Kickstarter will receive our official Pickle Project T-shirt.  It's 100% cotton, designed and hand-stencilled in the size you desire--but, we need to reach our goal in order to make the T-shirts available to all our great supporters--so pledge before February 1! 

And our heart-felt thanks to all our backers.  You're amazing!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Pickle Project Pops Up

We've generously received some great coverage of our efforts we thought you'd enjoy.
  • You can hear Sarah interviewed on the Nash Holos radio program from Vancouver here.
  • You can read an interview with Linda at the Watershed Post about the similarities between New York's Catskills and the Carpathians here.
  • and, you can read Linda's guest post about historic photos, Ukraine and memory at the Archives Info blog here.
And don't forget to back us on Kickstarter.  As of this morning, only 9 days left to reach our goal.  Our immense thanks go out to those of you who've already pledged your support!  You can easily learn more about our project and become a supporter here.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

How Can You Be a Part of the Pickle Project?

We've been madly tweeting (follow @PickleProject for a Pickle Pic of the day) and Facebooking about our new effort--but finally, here's a blog post about your  chance to become directly involved in the Pickle Project.  Take a look at our video above and learn more about the next steps in our project.   But our next steps won't happen without your help.

Here's the deal:

Kickstarter is a unique online platform for funding creative ideas--including ours.  Click here to go to the Pickle Project on Kickstarter.  Watch the video, read about what we'd like to do, and check out the great premiums we're offering for your support.  I mean, who wouldn't want the official Pickle Project T-shirt, a painted Ukrainian egg or folk pottery?   Even a pledge of $10 brings us one step closer to our goal.
But it's all or nothing.  A unique facet of Kickstarter is that you must make your goal, by a set date, or you receive none of the funding.  So we have 11 days to go, and we're making progress every day--but we need to make more!

How do you pledge?  Just click on the green button that says Back This Project.  You'll  be asked to input your pledge amount and select a reward. From there, you will go through the Amazon checkout process. Note that you must finish the Amazon checkout process for your pledge to be recorded.
If the Pickle Project is successfully funded, your card will be charged when we reach our funding deadline--for us, February 1.  If we don't reach our funding goal, your card is never charged.   Don't have a credit card or want to use Amazon?  Please contact us directly so we can help you.

To date, 65 incredible people from all over the world have supported us.  We're touched and heartened by the great good spirit of friends, families and perfect strangers.  We'd love for you to join them--but don't delay!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Pampushki Holiday: Delicious Doughnuts!

In last Sunday's New York Times, a travel article described L'viv, in Western Ukraine,  as a place impossible to forget. Today, we're pleased to have a blog entry from that memorable place.  Christi Anne Hofland (above, left)  is teaching English in L'viv and shared her observations on the annual Pampushki Festival.  Enjoy!

Today is January 14,  the end of the Ukrainian month-long Christmas holidays characterized by a month of feasting, beginning with St. Nicholas Day on December 19th and ending with the Old New Year celebration on January 14th.  During the holidays, one can find all the traditional Ukrainian dishes, including varenyky,  holedyets,  Christmas kutya, and of course, pampushki.  Pampushki are Ukrainian donuts traditionally served on Christmas Day.  This Christmas season in L'viv's Ploscha Rynok, we celebrated the 4th annual Pampushki Holiday.
Living in the city center of Lviv, I walk through the Plosha Rynok everyday but I had never seen so many people in the Plosha Rynok as I did during the Pumpushki Holiday! By evening it was almost impossible to cross the Rynok Square, everyone was there to sample the famous Ukrainian donut and foot traffic was hardly moving. The square was lined with vendors selling their own versions of the tasty fried treats. People lined up (or crowded up, which seems to be more the Ukrainian way) in front of the vendors known for the best pampushki. 
There were pampushkis filled with jam, chocolate, poppy seeds, or cream. Pampushkis were also covered in powdered sugar, chocolate, sweet sweetened condensed milk, or various fruit sauces. Groups of carolers paraded through in traditional “vertep” costumes. A Ukrianian folk band was playing on the stage. Kids were making Pampushki crafts at the children’s booths. Ice skaters filled the outdoor skating rink. A crowd was gathered right in the center of the Plosha Rynok. As I pushed through the crowd I encountered the largest pile of Pampushki I had ever seen! Women dressed in Ukrainian folk costumes were handing out free pampushki to anyone who made it to the front of the crowd. Of course I managed to snatch one too. Soft, fluffy, fresh, sweet and amazing! I think it probably tasted even better because of the effort it took to get my hands on one!
 Photos:  Top:  Christi Anne and friend enjoy a pampushki;  center: a pampushki vendor, 2009;  bottom:  Sarah Crow with a human pampushki, 2009.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Ukrainian Christmas, San Francisco Style

Olga Trusova, our very first supporter on Kickstarter,  is our guest blogger here.   Enjoy her mouthwatering description of a traditional Svyata Vercherya meal in San Francisco.   If you have recipes, meals, and photos to share about your Ukrainian food traditions, please share!
On January 7th, we celebrated Ukrainian Orthodox Christmas. Twelve meatless dishes were served with the first rising star during Svyata Vecherya. Since there is only a handful of places like Veselka in the Bay Area (Renaissance, FandorinRussia House, and Babushka, among the few), I decided to cook this traditional Ukrainian Christmas feast at my home in San Francisco. 
Born in Odessa to a Ukrainian mother and a Russian father, I consider myself an Odessitka above all. Odessa, a Ukrainian city on the Black Sea, combines the cultures and flavors from various parts of the world, brining traditions and passions of Ukrainians, Russians, Moldovans, Armenians, Georgians, Greeks, Jews into one delicious party. Borscht and pirogi, wine and lavash, brinza and gefilte fish - these are some of the staple foods of an Odessit, and they deserve a separate blog post all together. But for Svyata Vecherya, I decided to focus on cooking traditional Ukrainian food for my friends and family, as a way to celebrate my mother's heritage and to give American folks a chance to try authentic Ukrainian dishes. 
Our twelve course meal consisted of kutya, zakuski (sauerkraut, pickles, herring, smoked fish, pickled mushrooms), borscht and garlic pompushki, vareniki with sour cream, honey cookies and Russian candy, accompanied by whortleberry mors, kvas, rose-hip drinks, and lots of vodka. When it comes to borscht, I can talk for hours about my love for the beet soup. It seems like every family in Ukraine has its own borscht recipe - I, of course, follow my mom's and will not reveal its secret ingredient to anyone. Kutya, on the other hand, deserves some explanation. It is kind of a cross between pudding and porridge, made with poppy seeds, poppy milk, toasted walnuts, wheat berries, honey, raisins, and served cold primarily during Christmas. If you know the history of kutya, please share it, as kutya is quite fascinating and seems to be a very ancient creation (maybe even an early aphrodisiac). 
 Zakuski, or appetizers, were purchased from the Royal Market & Bakery on Geary Street - a small "Russian ghetto" in San Francisco, where I get my Russian/Armenian food fix from time to time. My neighbor Mary brought an amazing homemade herring from the Nordic House in Berkeley. My friend Kara brought potato and cheese vareniki, or dumplings, prepared according to her grandmother's recipe. We were very lucky to have such an amazing feast and such a joyful Christmas this year! 
Of course, for an authentic Svyata Vecherya, a cook uses only local ingredients. It's an opportunity to dig into those pickled and preserved goods that make winter so comforting. So I'm already thinking about how to adapt our next Christmas meal to my life in California. Looking at the Epicurious seasonal ingredient map of where I live now, I see so many exciting ways in which I can stay close to this land as well. Avocados, kumquats, kale, swiss chard are among a few exciting foods in season at the moment. What would Svyata Vecherya look like with those ingredients in place? After all, this pescaterian meal was created in celebration of Christmas, for being grateful for the gifts given throughout the year, and for gathering the family together during one of the coldest months of winter to enjoy many dishes prepared with what the land provided.