Celebration! Easter! Lent is over! What a month to be in Russia. We began our journey to Russia in March and ended with an Easter Celebration that I think Russians would have felt at home.
As with any culture or country, special recipes are tied to various celebrations and holiday traditions. Easter- Pascha- in Russian – is the most important festival in the Christian calendar and in our home (more celebrated in our home than Christmas).
Our family began preparing for Easter the week before. Our neighbors graciously hosted the grand “Easter/Russian Celebration.” We had the time treasured Easter faves – Ham, salads, Easter eggs, Easter bunny cake – and the traditional Russian Easter fare – starting with zakuski – Russian appetizers – and ending with Kulich – a tall, round cake flavored with cardamom and vanilla, adorned with the Easter Eggs my daughters painstakingly painted. In the olden days, the cake and eggs were carried to the church to be blessed by the priest with a sprinkling of Holy water. During the Russian Imperial times, Tsar Nikolai II gave his wife and mother the beautiful bejewelled eggs made by Faberge, similar as those seen in the picture. Today, Russians have revived the tradition by giving bejewelled eggs or an egg-shaped ornament and still decorate boiled eggs in artistic and celebratory fashion.
A more modern Eastern celebration starts with Vodka and zakuski (we had herring salad, blinis, salted cucumbers) and in- between came the meat dishes – such as the perfect rabbit in smetana (thick sour cream), and borscht (beet soup with beef-YUM). For Russians, celebrating Easter is special enough for Vodka, and champagne! Traditionally, when you arrive to a Russian festivity, (and in this setting as well), the Host greets everyone with a welcome and a toast “za zdorovie!” – to your health! In our setting, there was a lot of toasting going on with the Zakuski, vodka, champagne, and blinis with salmon caviar. To have a toast with the Vodka is a way of showing respect for the host/hostess. Tradition says that you “must” drink the ice-cold vodka (with a glass in one hand and the salted cucumber in the other – sort of like tequila and lime tradition) in a single gulp. There is a Russian saying, “To leave vodka in the glass is to leave tear drops for the host.” No tears today, that’s for sure.
Here is a nod to Russia. I loved it, my family loved it, and we educated ourselves to the culture of Russia. Our favorite hands – down was the Beef Stroganoff ( find a recipe in my links to Russian recipes in the blog site). We are headed to lighter fare, Vietnam! I cannot wait. I have been cooking Viet food and have the menu set for the week (next post will show the Viet dishes and the menu).
See you later!