Saturday, October 11, 2014

Roadside Honey

Just a few photos from a trip back from Mykolayiv. We stopped along the road  to purchase some honey and bee pollen.  The man had a huge selection of honey and honey-related products for sale, and my friend Ihor (that's him tasting above) had extensive conversation about the types (buckwheat, acacia and others);  the properties of bee pollen; and more.  He also had homemade wine and walnuts for sale, though we didn't come home with either.  According to Ihor, bees and honey were scarce this year in Poltava, his native region, so he stocked up on several varieties to take home.

As we made the long drive, we noticed that each village tended to sell one thing or the other.  We passed the village with a sugar plant, where big bags of sugar were for sale along the road.  On the road we also saw truck after truck filled with sugar beets.  In one village, potatoes for sale; in another, apples; another cabbages; and still another, sweet peppers.

For mile after mile, the incredible black dirt of Ukraine stretched out before us with the remainders of corn, sunflowers and other crops; and some fields set afire to burn off crops before winter.  I've traveled over a great deal of Ukraine on this trip, and find so many lovely parts that I'd like to explore.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Market Report: Riga's Central Market, September 2014

I had a chance to spend a few days in Riga, Latvia, this month and took time to go over to the city's large Central Market.  Filled with Saturday shoppers and pretty friendly market venders, including the young helper above,  the market was full of signs of autumn, so I wanted to share a bit of what I saw.  Starting with mushrooms, mushrooms, mushrooms, all kinds, all colors.

 Fruits of the season:  cranberries, apples, pears, grapes, plums and more.

Plus of course, the vegetables that tell us the long winter is coming.

But who can tell me what these stringy things at right are?

Riga has a rich fishing history, and a big fish section in the market, fresh, dried and smoked and a small cafe serving turbot and eel.

And of course, pickled all kinds of things.

And just a few more photos.  Riga is such a great city--including the market. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

"A Very Home Place"

Just before Easter, I’d been emailing with my friend Tania Kochubinska, who lives and works in Kyiv, about another matter and asked her to send me her family’s Easter pictures. She sent several, saying although her family isn’t particularly religious, they all go to a family house for Easter. So of course, I wanted to know more about the place and the experience. Here’s what Tania shared with me.

We are not a religious family, but the tradition of painting eggs and baking Easter-cake is really kept. And recipe of baking Easter-cake, which is still being used by us, comes from my great grandma. Notwithstanding that I never went to a church to bless the Easter-cake (I used to go the church with my grandmother, but it was not an occasion on a special religious feast) we keep on baking it and just having always a very solemn dinner on Easter. And of course the tradition of battling with painted eggs is also kept, since childhood it is the most impressive and performative aspect of Easter. These photographs in this post were made in the house of my great grandma, we often go there. Sadly my grandparents are not alive, but the house is kept, and we go there. My mother and my father go there more often than I do.

It is not a village. My great grandmother was born in a village not far from this place, but it is a small industrial (used to be industrial) town of Konotop. It is famous for its important railway junction (all roads to Moscow go through Konotop). It is also famous because Kazimir Malevich is said to have worked for two years in this town as a draughtsman and there is a water tower designed by Vladimir Shukhov. The city is located in the East of the country, in the region of Sumy. My grandmother and grandfather lived there, and my great grandmother lived in this house, which is located in a private housing area.

Coming back to Easter again, frankly speaking in my family the sacral sense of Easter is not kept, but it is just a very family feast for me. We always have a dinner with aspic, Easter cake, eggs, it is only time a year, when we eat so many eggs, it is because of battling with eggs. Each holds a painted egg and tries to break the egg of the opponent and to keep his/her egg safe. That means we have lots of eggs to eat!

This house is like a very home place. Of course it is different for me than my mother. She used to live in that house since she was around 14 years old. For me it is about childhood. When I was young there were a lot of children coming from different cities (mainly Kyiv and Kharkiv) to visit their grandparents. There are different fruit trees left, but it is not about special gardening there-- we have flowers, some salads, but it is not the goal to grow fruits and vegetables, it is more about the atmosphere. When I go there I often think that it is really nice to have a private house. Because you feel your own planet there, but at the same time you are disconnected from the world.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Joyful Market in Odessa

Sarah and I love Odessa and regular readers know we love markets (as you can read in our earlier posts).  So we were immeasurably moved this week to see the flash mob performance of the Odessa Philharmonic's musicians. They chose to perform Ode to Joy, the European Union's anthem,  in a place that matters deeply to most Odessans, Privoz Market.  Amongst the fish and salo, a bit of joy. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Ukraine: West, East, North, South

When Sarah and I began the Pickle Project, we were both clear in our minds that all of Ukraine interested us.  The different ethnic groups who call it home, the different landscapes that shape food production and consumption, the food we ate, and most of all, the people of this complex and beautiful country. The two of us had a rare chance to catch up yesterday and we found ourselves returning to the sunny, warm month of July, 2011. 
That's the month, thanks to you--our Kickstarter backers-- and the Trust for Mutual Understanding, that we packed our bags and traveled by train throughout Ukraine exploring food and traditions.  We began in Kyiv and headed to Donetsk, with side trips to villages in the Donbass,  to a Greek-Ukrainian village in Maripol; and then to Crimea, getting to stay in a Crimean Tatar settlement.  On to Odessa, then to L'viv and up into the mountains of the Trans-Carpathian region. We saw a great deal of Ukraine that month and met countless Ukrainians.  We visited markets everywhere and filed lots of market reports.  Here are ones from Kyiv,  from the road between Donetsk and Maripol,  from Simferopol, from Odessa, and from L'viv.   We ate in a Soviet-style cafeteria in Yalta and in a garden near L'viv.   and shared too many more memorable meals to mention.
As you read the news from Ukraine--from the west, from the east, from Crimea, from cities and villages; we wanted to encourage you to take a moment to re-read our thoughts from that trip, many written as it happened (and honestly, others still to be written) to gain a picture of the country you might only see now in images of tanks and protest banners.  And for us, as we re-visit that month, we again remember friends and strangers met along the way and send our very best wishes and hopes for the future of a democratic, united Ukraine.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Join Us!

The Pickle Project is expanding its Board and heartily welcomes interest from flexible and fun candidates to help us grow this fledgling organization. An interest in food, culture and sustainability in cross-cultural contexts, especially the post-Soviet space; and the ability to share and help forge interpersonal and organizational connections across interest areas and communities are essential to our work. Board participation includes quarterly virtual meetings and a willingness to engage in specific projects to help advance the work of the Pickle Project into the future! Please message us directly if interested.

Photo:  compote and flowers by Grace Eickmayer

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Food: The Most Peaceful and Powerful Weapon

When I posted earlier about food on Maidan these days,  Leo Dvortsin of the Netherlands, a friend of both Ukraine and the Pickle Project, shared a link from someone's timeline on Facebook.  That someone was Zoya Zvinyatskovskaya, a journalist and culture expert.  Enormous thanks to Zoya for giving us permission to share it here and to Leo for providing the translation.   Read it, just read it--it's incredible.

Everybody agrees that the food takes an extraordinary place during this revolution, a special place in the organization of any event, slightest movement or displacement of people on the streets. Of course, this is not a coincidence, as food and its availability are the oldest and most simple indicators of the state of well-being of a given society. So, according to this indicator, the Ukrainian society unified by the concept "Maidan" is doing really well, something to envy.
Last Tuesday, that is a million years ago, I passed by fences set out by activists on the corner of Maidan (Independence Square), Institutskaya and Bankovoya streets. There were several dozen serious people and, as many simple sympathizers like me. I came close to the fence, stood on tiptoe and peered over it: at the other side there was an empty street, and a row of policemen in black uniforms further away. It was a fairly infernal display, but I was not allowed to enjoy it fully. Literally after 30 seconds of my observation I was approached by a very active and smiling young girl who in a very friendly manner asked, "would you like to have tea?" In her hands she was holding a tray with disposable cups from which clouds of steam were rising into the air. I politely declined her offer, but she insisted and repeated, "and with cookies?"  This meant the following: if you are at least for a minute doing something needed now by ‘gromada’ (Russian words ‘society’ or ‘collective’ are absolutely not equivalent, and I do not even want to use them), and so, if you work for even for a minute for the benefit of ‘gromada’ – ‘gromada’ immediately begins to take care of you. And you will not perish.

And today, I saw this mechanism from the inside, on a barricade closest to my home - a small outpost of the Maidan, one of many around the square. Around 6:30 PM, when a spontaneous gathering of protesters started near the barricade (speaker, standing on a car, tried to convince people supporting the government party who gathered in the park to go home ), I decided to show my daughter the revolution – luckily, the frontline came very close to my house. We arrived around 7 PM, warmly dressed and with a child-sized flag. Scene of the spectacle looked quite heroic: truck baffling the street, determined people in helmets, barricade made of benches from the nearby park, and an army tent. The only thing that slightly spoiled the romance - soldiers of the revolution, standing in a chain they were all eating bananas. It looked a bit strange and very funny at the same time. And then I saw the source of bananas - a woman in a coat with a bag from the Selpo supermarket chain. And then another one - with small pies, you know, ones that are sold on the street. She walked down the line with the package and offered them to everyone.

Hmm, somehow suddenly I thought that it would be necessary to bring some tea for the guys, and went home. At 7:35 PM my friends and I returned to the barricade with two buckets of tea, as well as with sugar and lemon. One of the benches has been brought out of the barricade, on the side. On it there was a box with homemade sandwiches and a grandfather poured coffee from a small thermos. Our tea was greeted very warmly, as we poured it, a man appeared with the patties filled with poppy seed (they were stored in the same box as the homemade sandwiches) and there were even more homemade sandwiches arriving, but different ones. Everything started to look very well. At 8:20 a car drove up, obviously from headquarters of the protest movement. A man exited from the car dressed in a fantastic sheepskin jacket, belted with Hutsul leather belt. He delivered three military jerry cans, each with up to 20 liters capacity, full with broth, soup and tea. Besides that the car brought a porridge made with millet and fried with lard. And a real aunty cook began to serve it with a huge ladle on disposable plates. A woman volunteer who called the aunty cook ‘mother’ started distributing the plates. First to the ‘soldiers’ in the line. Then to everybody around the barricade, including supporters, onlookers and Titushki who came from work on their way to sleep. Titushki (government backed young men who are responsible for provocations) recoiled in horror and accelerated pace. At the same time, people brought baguettes, sandwiches and more patties. Porridge of oatmeal was still warm. By 8:50 PM all were full, the music continued to play, and two beautiful and cheerful girls began to dance and sing along at yet another Svyatoslav Vakarchuk`s song. Picket turned into something that usually happens during our revolutions. It became some sort of wedding , and in its phase when the newlyweds have already left, and the table is just bursting from the weight of food, and the guests are already full of fun and are assessing which songs they should start singing. Ten meters from the protesters stood a row of policemen, and right behind them a row of riot police who looked like astronauts. They were standing too far from the barricade, but the cops sadly smelled tasty vapors, shifting from foot to foot, staring morosely at what is happening in front of them - the smell of porridge was just intoxicating and filled the street. I trudged home with an empty bucket in order to put my child to bed (second bucket, still full with tea, I left as my present for the revolution), on my way home I saw at least three couples with plastic bags in which I could clearly recognize stacked sandwiches . Based on the amount of food the picket could have stood there for several days. And we have not even shown our best. 

Well, you understand what I am trying to say. Of course, this barricade is purely symbolic. And the ‘fighters’ occupying it are not real fighters, but just simple guys in construction helmets and without the slightest hint of weapons in their possession. And this barricade can be dismantled in blink of an eye. But, you know that it will as easily restored in no time. As many times as required. Pledge for this is the amazing self-organization of our people, most clearly evident in the supply of food anyone, even random people who are sympathizing with the protest movement. There is abundance of food. But the main thing is that I have seen where this food comes from. It is instantly supplied by ‘gromada’. And this is demonstration of force, the most peaceful and the most powerful at the same time that I have ever seen.

Photo:  hot tea on Maidan, photo by Anastasia Vlasova