Monday, January 14, 2008

Here's to a Bean in Your Dumpling

Happy Old-New Year! Today, marks the end of the Russian holiday cycle and although it’s not a red day on the calendar, it is still widely celebrated across Russia.

Russia celebrates two New Year’s days, one on January 1st for the Gregorian calendar which was adopted in 1918, shortly after the Russian Revolution and the second on Jan 14 for the Julian Calendar, which Orthodox churches still use. So today is New Year’s day on the old calendar, affectionately referred to as. . . the Old-New Year.


A favorite Old-New Year tradition is eating homemade dumplings, called var-EN-iki. Besides the usual filling of mashed potatoes or cottage cheese and raisins, hidden in these holiday vareniki are surprises that tell a fortune, or so goes the legend.

Above, dear sisters in our congregation make 300 vareniki for another recent holiday. The ladies spent most of Saturday making the dough, mashing potatoes, rolling out, filling, trimming, crimping edges and getting those little varniki into the freezer. Served topped with sauted onions and sour cream, oh were they delicious.


And so it was that shortly after our vareniki binge, I was checking out the vareniki bins at the local up-scale supermarket. This nice young lady was happy to be the vareniki model. She's good! I asked if these might have surprises hidden in them for the Old-New Year. She wasn't sure. . .


But Mrs Vareniki did some searching there in the frozen food section and, voila, found packaged, frozen vareniki - with surprises! The text on the lower left in red says, You know what you've been waiting for the New Year!!! For vareniki with surprises! Then are listed the surprises and the legend: Find a kidney bean in your varniki, and you’ll have plenty of money. Extra sugar predicts a sweet life. Salt means that you’ll have to work by the sweat of your brow. Extra pepper says your year will be thrilling and a pea points to travels.

Vareniki are in the closest bin and the third one. The other two bins are pelmeni -- pel-MAIN-ee -- filled with meat.

How about you? Does your family have special, fun traditions for forecasting the new year? Do you have any traditional ethnic foods in your family, probably labor-intensive? Okay, do you just buy any of this stuff in convenience form from the supermarket?

7 comments:

Tammy said...

Eileen, Thanks for the note back. I live in Zhitomir-- pretty far from Donetsk, or I'd come meet you! I'm in Hungary now, where I also work & showed my roomies your blog. They love it! Thanks for making it interesting & informative. What do you do?? Teach or work in a church? Just interested.
My blog is tswailes.blogspot.com if you're interested.
Be blessed!
Tammy

Eileen said...

Hello Tammy, thanks for the note. Isn't Zhitomir up toward northeast Ukraine? I've been to Slavyansk and Slavyanagorsk and seems that Zhitomir is up beyond that still. Have you been to Russia? ;) See, since you're in Hungary, that gives me a clue as to why I'm seeing some hits from Hungary on my the blog data. You asked what I do - well, I serve in our church here, teaching children's classes, helping teach women's classes. Lots other stuff, like with orphanage and all. But nowadays I'm not teaching in a school. Although I've done that lots of years in the US, etc. I would like though to be a *frequent* resource person in a school or university here. Maybe that opportunity will come sometime...hope so. I'll visit your blog soon! Thanks for visiting, Tammy, E

Tammy said...

Eileen- Zhitomir is 120 km west of Kiev. Yes, I've been to Russia - 1 month to study language in Petersburg (wonderful city!) I'm happy to hear you work with children in the church-- the churches need it! May God direct your steps!
I introduced my roomatess here (in Hungary) to your blog-- thus the Hungarian hits. They're American & New Zelanders. We are actually arguing about WHOSE friend you are! I know in my heart I was your friend first tho! :) We love your blog & think you're a great writer. One day, we hope to all meet & share stories in person! Tammy, MaryJill & Edith.

Tammy said...

Eileen- Zhitomir is 120 km west of Kiev. Yes, I've been to Russia - 1 month to study language in Petersburg (wonderful city!) I'm happy to hear you work with children in the church-- the churches need it! May God direct your steps!
I introduced my roomatess here (in Hungary) to your blog-- thus the Hungarian hits. They're American & New Zelanders. We are actually arguing about WHOSE friend you are! I know in my heart I was your friend first tho! :) We love your blog & think you're a great writer. One day, we hope to all meet & share stories in person! Tammy, MaryJill & Edith.

Eileen said...

Hello Tammy, NOW I know why Zhitomir sounds familiar - My friend Cindy from Virginia goes there regularly to do church things...and I've even looked it up on the map before. So that's where you live, eh?

Trying to figure out exactly what you're doing in Hungary. Because, you know, it really is (not) my business! (In addition to hanging out with *a certain woman!*) Actually I'd love to visit Hungary sometime...I hear the language is an absolute hum-dinger to learn! Thanks for your kind words and thank you for stopping by! =)

take care,
E

Jeanette M said...

I love pelmeni! And after seven years of waiting to go to Russia to eat them (courtesy of my great-cook friends) I have now discovered that they are easy to make and I do it myself. My family is thrilled...and I have a way to comfort myself.
Food, glorious food!

Karyn said...

I was excited to see the vareniki and that the church ladies make them by hand. My mother's side of the family is Polish, and from what I understand from my Ukrainian friend (and from your description), vareniki are very similar to the pierogies we make and eat every Christmas. Noodle dough rolled into circles, filled with mashed potatoes, or cottage cheese, or sauerkraut, closed and pinched into half-moon dumplings, and then boiled till they float (like ravioli). We make about 200 of them every year. We saute them with onions and butter and eat them with sour cream. Yum! We've never put surprises in them though... I wonder if my mom would go for that idea, LOL. She's very particular about her pierogie!