Ukrainian history has known hunger even starvation. During the 1930s, Stalin sought to collectivize farms. He systamatically disrupted farming practices and the distribution system. The result was what Ukrainians now call the Holodomor. That's Russian for "death by starvation."
The number is controversial but about 7 million died and maybe as many as 10 million. So strange that I never heard of the Holodomor until I came here to Ukraine. Please take a moment to learn more .... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holodomor.
When I talk with my new Ukrainian friends, they carry stories in their family histories about the hard times. Many lost family members to starvation and many more were killed in World War II - especially here in Chernihiv where much of the town was destroyed.
I visited Valeri's home again. He invited me to see his garden. It was already planted with carrots, potatoes, peas, garden greens, cabbage. Tomato seedlings grew in protected frames. About ten chickens were in a coop and picking away at scraps. I am told that they produce a few eggs each day. Nearby quite a sizable strawberry patch was beginning to blossom. I am told that nothing compares to fresh Ukrainian strawberries. Maybe Judy, my sister-in-law, will visit and make one of her world class Strawberry Pies...if not this year, next!!
Look at the salad. Doesn't it look fantastic? It's based upon tomatoes and cabbage and cucumbers. Add a bunch of fresh parsley and dill and you have a wonderful tasting salad. It is never loaded down with high calorie processed dressings. Maybe a little olive or sunflower oil. That's all. I have salad just about everyday....YUM!!
I have gained a cooking reputation even here in Ukraine. So far I have shared with my host family Russian Vegetarian Pie (shown above), Lemon Chicken and Italian pasta with fresh tomato sauce. Last weekend Andre, Natasha and Babushka came for dinner. I baked another Russian Vegetarian Pie. Even Babushka was impressed!! Afterwards we played Russian Uno. What is Russian Uno, you ask? Every time you lay down a card, you must say the number and color in Russian. I learn and Luda wins....AGAIN!!!
Now I have to admit that I was never a fan of the Beet. My mother tried to introduce all of her children to Beets and I was no exception. But for me, Beets just tasted like a mouthful of dirt.
So saying I was not a fan is an understatement. In fact I hated Beets. When friends heard that I was going to Ukraine, they often said..."Ahh, don't they eat a lot of Beets?" I would cringe and change the subject.
Of course my friends were right. There is no way to avoid the BEET in Ukraine. Luda made Borscht during my first week here. I have to admit that I sat down with some hesitation. "Here we go with my first cultural clash," I thought.
Last week I entered a new phase in my affair with Beets. Luda made a beet, bean and potato vinaigrette salad. She served it with thick wedges of dark bread. I was skeptical, but again it tasted good, even YUM! Mom would be proud of me after all of these years. If you want a recipe, send me an email and I will be glad to share.