EDF: A Report from Poland
Busy mom-of-four Jessica Sirotin, a native of New Jersey, has spent the past 15 years living in Eastern Europe. Currently based in Warsaw, Poland, Sirotin has also lived in Russia and Hungary, and has enjoyed, mostly, every minute of it.
It would be wonderful to think that changing how and what my family consumes is being carried out in the measured and careful way I had planned. In execution, however, I find myself pressured by both circumstances and my four kids.
Nevertheless, I think I have a fighting chance at success. My husband’s family is of Russian/Polish extraction, and in the 15 years we have lived in Eastern Europe (Russia, Hungary and Poland) I have taken to heart many of their ideas about managing the pantry. Even though Communism ended here almost 20 years ago, many people still remember the food shortages and remain very pro-active about how to make do with what they have.
My husband’s aunt and uncle in Moscow had a wonderful apartment. It was tiny but packed with so many of the things needed in the coming year. Tucked away in ceiling cupboards and in their two refrigerators, they kept dried fish, bags of sugar and salt and endless jars of pickles, sauerkrauts, jams and kompots. (Kompot is a Russian/Polish drink - when you are inundated with fresh fruit -- strawberries, cherries, forest berries, rhubarb etc. in the summer, they will pop a few pounds of fruit in a huge pot, cover with boiling water and once it boils add sugar to taste. When it cools you can it or just pop it in the fridge.) Their winter supply of potatoes was kept in a homemade compartment on the balcony.
I am not suggesting that my kitchen looks like theirs. But I always remember that for every meal they made, whether a plain supper or a party for 10, these on-hand ingredients were the starting point. Nothing was purchased until things already on the shelf were taken into account. Nothing went to waste.
With their example in mind, I think I am doing alright even though I forgot to go to the store before Saturday when I began the EDF. I try to keep my shelves stocked with things we eat, not things we crave. There have been no real crises -- minus the lack of bread.
In honor of the region where I have spent many wonderful years, I would like to share a recipe for a classic eastern European summer soup. Through a lucky conglomeration of ingredients found in my pantry and vegetable garden last night, I was able to make chłodnik, a Polish cold barszcz. I served it with dark rye bread, and a Kompo made from a neighborly donation of sour cherries. If it’s sunny, eat it outside and pretend you’re at the dacha.
1.5 pounds beets (small beets are best)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt, to taste
Sugar, to taste
1 cucumber, diced
4 scallions (tops and bottoms) chopped finely
6-10 radishes, grated
5 cups kefir or buttermilk (homemade kefir is wonderful here)
2-3 tablespoons fresh dill (chopped finely)
2-3 hard boiled eggs, sliced (optional)
Wash and scrub beets. Place in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, until tender, approximately 25 minutes. Remove beets from water and cool. Reserve the liquid and let cool.
Skin the beets and dice. Put the beets back in the liquid and add the kefir and lemon juice. Check the seasoning, adding salt and sugar as necessary for the proper tartness/sweetness. It should have a slightly creamy tangy flavor. Add the cucumber, scallions and radishes. Refrigerate.
Check the seasoning again before serving. Place as much egg as desired in a bowl and cover with soup. Add dill as a garnish. Serve with bread.
By Kim ODonnel |
June 25, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
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