Saturday, March 30, 2013

Memorial Feast Divine: Making Unleavened Bread

We're surrounded by statues here in the former USSR, a salute to people who have survived much, who remember so much, who regularly pause to honor those to whom honor is due. The thing is, while statues do grab our attention, they are big, bulky and expensive. They have their limitations.

Jesus Christ himself asked to be memorialized not in stone carvings but through a memorial feast that He, Himself began.The feast is brilliant in its simplicity, using unleavened bread made from ingredients found in every kitchen, a recipe that hearkens generations back in Hebrew history.  

And so it is that each Sunday, including Resurrection Sunday, in Churches of Christ, we pause and reflect to honor the price our Lord willingly paid to redeem us. 

Christ is Risen! proclaims the embroidery in Russian.

Unleavened bread, part of the memorial feast.

I've been in Donetsk, Ukraine in recent days, living with dear sister Tatyana and her husband who minister for a small congregation. Tanya's Saturday routine includes making unleavened bread for Sunday worship.

Who needs a bowl? Mix the flour and oil right on the table.

Mix, mix, mix. . . using fingertips. They're cooler, you know, that the palm of the hand.

Tanya actually kneads the dough. Surprised me a bit, since that develops gluten and makes it tougher. But  hey,  maybe the Hebrew homemakers did some kneading too. . .

Next, tidy up the table for the next step. Make a nice surface for rolling.

Rolling, rolling. Tanya rolls the dough directly around the rolling pin.  Interesting. . .

So here's the dough. It's not a pie-crust, so no worries about making it round, just get 'er rolled out.

Good news: the dough didn't stick to the table. That's an experienced cook for you.

Now, on to baking tray. These trays are part of typical oven here, a shelf that doubles as a baking pan. (Myself, I'd rather have a 2nd wire oven rack. But who asked me. . .? ha)  Bake this in a medium oven until. . . until it's light brown.

The finished bread, so simple yet profound. Represents the body of our Lord, broken for us.

So, dear Blog-reading Friends, have you ever made unleavened bread? How would you prefer to be memorialized by those who survive you? Would you go for a statue in a park? A nice memorial in a cemetery or some other tangible way?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Wrapping up Maslenitsa Week

It's the final hour of Maslenitsa Week here in Russia, the week when blini, or Russian-style crepes, are cranked out like. . . like hot cakes.No surprise there! ;)

Blini are traditional fare for Maslenitsa for reasons both pagan and religious. As per old Slavic tradition, blinis' being round like the sun makes them perfect for welcoming springtime. Then, with pre-Easter fasting just around the corner - Orthodox Easter being May 5th this year - blini help the home-cook use up milk, eggs and butter which are excluded from a strict Orthodox fast as are meat and fish. In fact, maslenitsa, pronounced MA-slen-ee-tsa, has as its root the word for butter, maslo. 

Last week, I imagined that this would be the maslenitsa that I'd get good at cranking out blini. I have, after all, invested in a special blini skillet and off-set spatula. Alas, the week did not include blini-making.

I did manage, however, to photograph for you the nearby blini kiosk. They crank out blini here, fast food with yummy fillings, so popular with students. I translate the name of this place as Tasty Love and people laugh. . .

The first half of the word means  tasty, the second half means love. To me, that's Tasty Love. But locals would render it, I love (that which is) tasty! The banner hanging there posed another challenge for this language learner.Literally it's: Broad (wide) Maslenitsa!  Friend Herman says it means, Maslenitsa (is) for Everyone! Well that's so nice. . .

Not that the Tasty Love folks have any special menu items for the holiday, I checked just for you. However, fork out 300 rubles for lunch and, surprise, you earn a special maslenitsa magnet. Wonder if those are going like hot cakes?

Zoom on in: Care for Blini Fajitas? Yes, the Russian word there, фахитос is fajitas, transliterated, and it looks like the English plural is being used as singular. Well, okay. . .and for just 98 rubles, that's a bit less than $3, you can have one fresh off the skillet.
These Tasty Love blini are large, about 20-inches in diameter, and in the end, they're folded up rather like a burrito. They're for sale year 'round, of course.

Maslenitsa is only in the spring, just before the time of fasting. Here's more about Maslenitsa.

So dear blog reading friend, are you a blini pro? Have you celebrated Maslenitsa? Please do share!

Friday, March 08, 2013

Welcome March 8th: Black Friday for Russian Florists?

Today is March 8th, a red day, an official holiday, on the Russian calendar. It's International Women's Day, known simply the Eighth of March, the holiday is one of my personal favorites because, unlike Valentine's Day or Mother's Day, a person is honored simply for having been born female. And that suits me just fine!

Men are very busy on the 8th of March, buying flowers and chocolates for the women in their lives, for their wives, mothers, grandmothers, daughters and co-workers. The tradition starts young: Schoolboys take a collection to buy gifts for girls in their homeroom class. And it's a huge holiday: According to Voice of Russia, men in Moscow are spending some $550 million on gifts. And then. . . there's the rest of Russia.

This afternoon I went out to pick up some flowers and shoot some photos. Funny thing, vendors tend to be more willing to be photographed after a sale. But first, a look back at Eight of March posts from recent years. Here are the best photos, taken one morning when the vendors were busiest. Here are such creative floral designs plus the guy who deserves the gold medal for using a crane to deliver flowers. And, ta-da, here's a post with a video I did just for you, interviews with flower vendors on the street. This post has a short video from Russia Today news, a quick history of the holiday. Think you'll enjoy these.

So here's a look at the streets of Rostov-on-Don this afternoon, perhaps a bit subdued compared to the morning's flower rush, but managed to get you some photos, more easily done after buying some flowers.

It's like 4:15 pm, there's no time to waste. These guys are busy making decisions about flowers. Decisions, decision. Oh but let me tell you, they were very decisive about not being photographed close-up. Well all-righty then guys. . . 

Moooving right along. . .

Got talking to this nice fellow, wish I'd gotten his name. Asked him about the mimosa branches, left, which are grown far south of Rostov, in Abhkazia. That's along the Black Sea, even south of Sochi. That's quite a hike from here.

So how did you get all this mimosa from Abkhazia to Rostov? Amazing but true: He, himself, drove down and back, driving for 24 hours. And here he is working all day selling them. Now that's impressive. I didn't buy any flowers from him, my hands were already full, but he was so nice. . .

Here, these are for you, he said. Oh, Really? Glory be, what a nice gesture. These are so fragrant. 

 I was heading to see this dear soul. . .

Our sister Elena Lalaevna. She's a veteran of the World War 2, having served as a nurse. Now 92 years old, she lives by herself and is so grateful for any attention. So that's where I can help out, giving her some TLC from time to time. She loves her hyacinth. 

Say, while we're on the subject, thought you might like a quick look at Eight of March cards. Bought these just for you at the post office.

(Click to enlarge.) Four cards, all so springy, can almost catch the aroma. Let's zoom on in at two favorites.

Card on left: *On the day of the 8th of March, May all wishes and hopes be realized...*

*. . .. and may (they) all be successful and all come true! And may this celebratory day bring a mood (make you feel) that's wonderful, bright and simply spring-like! (And in Russian, it's so poetic!) 

Now for the mimosa card. So surprised, friend Misha stopped by last night with bouquet of these and chocolates. The mimosa has been chosen the official flower of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

*The 8th of March*

(May) a path of golden sunshine glide lightly across (your) cheek, (May) the mimosa branch so luxurious (be) like the sun's reflection in (your) hand. (verse 2) May these days of happiness be full of love and beauty, (May) your mood (or spirits) be good and all your wishes come true!

Dear Blog-reading friends, wishing you a splendid Eighth of March! Have you experienced this holiday in Eastern Europe? Please do share!