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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Nash Holos recipe: Ukrainian Walnut-Almond Torte

The women of Ukraine take great pride in their most favourite dessert, the torte.

There are many flavours, layers and combinations of tortes. Some with cream, some with мак(poppy seed) and chopped nuts, some layered with rich mocha, some with lemon squeezed into the custard, followed with warm lemon icing dripping from the top. Some аре made with layers of waffles filled with jam and whipped cream, then honey covers the top and runs down the sides for a scrumptious dessert that makes your taste buds go wild!

Here is an exceedingly good-layered nut torte, the queen of all tortes! It immigrated to Canada after the Second World War. It is made of two different batter mixtures, with an absolutely luscious filling.

Ukrainian Walnut-Almond Torte Walnut Layers (2):

8 eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups confectioner's (icing) sugar
2 cups walnuts, grated
4 tablespoons fine bread crumbs

Beat the egg yolks until light. Add the sugar gradually and beat until thick and fluffy. Stir in the nuts and breadcrumbs.

Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold gently into the mixture.

Butter two 9" deep layer pans (shallow pans may cause the batter to run over in the oven) with soft butter and sprinkle with fine breadcrumbs. Spoon the batter into the pans.

Bake at 350ºF for 30 to 35 minutes, or until done when tested.

Remove from the pans and place on a cake rack.

Almond Layer (1):

3 to 4 eggs, separated
2/3 cup confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2/3 cup grated almonds
2 tablespoons fine bread crumbs

Beat the egg yolks until light. Add the sugar gradually and continue beating until thick and fluffy. Beat in the lemon rind and juice. Stir in the almonds and breadcrumbs.

Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold gently into the mixture. Spoon the batter into a deep, buttered layer cake pan sprinkled with breadcrumbs.

Bake at 350ºF for 30 to 35 minutes or until done. Remove from the pan and place on a cake rack.

Prepare the following filling:

3 egg yolks
1 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1/2 cup butter
3 tablespoons strong cool coffee
1/2 teaspoon vanilla.

Blend the egg yolks with 1/2 cup of the sugar in a saucepan. Cook this mixture over simmering water, stirring constantly, until it thickens. Remove it from the heat and cool.

Cream the butter, then add the remaining 1 cup of sugar gradually, and continue creaming until smooth.

Blend in the yolk-sugar mixture, coffee, and vanilla. Beat thoroughly.

Spread this filling between the three layers of the torte, on the sides, and over the top. Decorate with toasted, slivered almonds.


Friday, October 30, 2009

New Holodomor film (in Ukrainian) by Canadian film-maker

I recently attended the Vancouver premiere of Montreal film-maker Yuriy Luhovy's latest documentary, "Okradena Zemlya: 1932-1933 Famine-Genocide." It took place at the Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Auditorium in Vancouver.

"Okradena Zemlya" translates into English as "Plundered Land." What I found different about this film from other Holodomor films is that watching it was like picking a scab off a sore too soon. Or, to word it more elegantly, reopening an old wound.

But the former description is really what it felt like for me. I can't talk with any credibility about re-opening wounds because my parents were Canadian-born toddlers when the Holodomor was happening, and all my (known) relatives had long since emigrated to Canada. So I didn't have a wound; I learned about the Holodomor in university in the 1980s. And while I was outraged and horrified, what I felt was just a surface cut compared to what survivors experienced, and carried with them, for decades.

Nonetheless, picking a scab off a cut that hasn't completely healed can hurt, and even bleed. And that is what I felt when I watched this film.

It wasn't just an academic recitation of the details of a horrific mass murder. The film portrayed the sense of hope and optimism that soviet socialism promised, particularly with the (short-lived) Ukrainianization of culture in the Ukrainian SSR. Then it depicted, vividly and graphically, the hope gradually dimming under the mounting sense of betrayal, disbelief, and abject horror that the people who lived (and died) through it would have experienced.

Somehow, Yurij was able to simulate that excruciating, gradual realization of what was happening, and the accompanying sense of utter helplessness. It was so stark that I couldn't even cry. I was numb.

The film was all in Ukrainian so, unfortunately, I missed a lot of the nuances. There's an English version planned, but funds are needed before it can be completed. Which is why Yurij is touring Canada with the film.

If you understand Ukrainian, even imperfectly, you need to see this film. If you missed the screening, buy a copy or two of the DVD and/or make a donation. An English version will get the message to more people, so that more will hopefully learn from it.

You can go to this website (here) for more information about the film. You can make a donation there as well as order this film and/or any of Yurij Luhovy's other excellent productions.

I was fortunate to be able to speak with Yurij by phone a couple of weeks before his arrival in Vancouver. The interview aired on Nash Holos on October 11 and features cuts from the soundtrack. If you missed it, you can listen to it here.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ukrainian Studies Foundation - British Columbia

Does your organization have a Ukrainian language program for children or adults?

Do you know of an interesting, informative speaker on timely Ukrainian issues?

Are you writing a book on Ukrainian topics?

Is your organization contemplating a project with an academic Ukrainian element?

If the answer is yes, then you may be eligible for financial assistance from the Ukrainian Studies Foundation of BC.

The Ukrainian Studies Foundation of BC has, for 20 years, promoted and supported Ukrainian studies at all educational levels, and co-operated with other institutions or societies in programs consistent with these aims.

To accomplish its aims, USF-BC provides seed money to organizations that partner with it and entertains interesting and worthwhile proposals for financial support.

Members of the board of directors represent diverse professional expertise and community involvement. USF-BC has supported Ukrainian language and history courses at BC universities, Ukrainian school programs for children and adults, lecturers and speakers at community events, the publication of books of Canadian authors on Ukrainian subjects, the publication of promotional materials for historical events, a library cataloguing project, sale and promotion of books at public events.

USF-BC derives its funding from bequests and donations, is registered as a Society in BC and a charitable organization with Canada Revenue Agency, and issues tax receipts for donations and bequests.

To inquire about partnering, financial assistance, or donations, get in touch with Lydia Huzyk by email or leave a message at 604-437-1464.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Uniquely Ukrainian contemporary sound

A dear and loyal listener from the east coast of the United States sent me a link to this video, which he says he just loves. I like it too, so thought I'd share it with you.

I'm not crazy about the sleazy costumes the dancers are wearing, but the song is great. It comes close to that uniquely Ukrainian genre of contemporary music that I keep hoping will materialize and take the world by storm.

The artist is Natalka Buchinska. I really like her music but unfortunately don't have any of her CDs for broadcast. If I did, she'd get a lot of airplay. And if it came with liner notes in English translation, Nash Holos listeners would be able to get to know her better. (I hope her manager reads this blog!)

Here's the video:

Here's another he also sent me a while ago. (Thanks, Ronnie!)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Nash Holos recipe: Pumpkin Rice Pudding

Judy first heard the recipe for Pumpkin Rice Pudding from Sylvia Molnar on Nash Holos a few years back. Intrigued, she tried it, loved it, and adopted it as her own.

It’s now a family favorite in her home. She makes it for fall parties and her guests just love the idea of pudding in a pumpkin.

Here's the recipe:

2 cups milk
1 cup long grain rice
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups pumpkin puree (fresh or canned)
3 tablespoons sugar.
1 cup seedless raisins
1 whole medium sized pumpkin (preferable with a stem)
1 cup chopped blanched almonds.
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Heat milk in a heavy pot. Add rice and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and cook 15 minutes.

Melt the butter in a skillet, add the pumpkin and sugar.

Plump raisins in hot water and then drain. Add raisins, chopped almonds, almond extract and cinnamon to the cooked rice.

Cut the top of the pumpkin to make a lid. Remove the seeds and membrane. Butter the inside generously.

Fill with half of the rice mixture, then a layer of pumpkin puree, then the rest of the rice mixture. Dot with butter.

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Place pumpkin on a greased baking pan or cookie sheet and bake for one hour until heated through. Y ou can also bake the pudding in small individual pumpkins. Just carve out eight miniature pumpkins and follow instructions above.

For a festive look, serve in harvest fruit nappies or small carved out pumpkins. Add a dollop of whipped cream and sprinkle with cinnamon. Serves 8.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Canadian Internment camp in BC being remembered

On Saturday, 24 October 2009, the Ukrainian Canadian community of British Columbia, with the support of the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Foundation, will be unveiling a trilingual plaque in Edgewood, recalling the confinement there of Ukrainians and other Europeans during Canada's first national internment operations of 1914-1920.

This plaque is one of a series that have been placed across Canada, starting in 1994. Each marker is located at or near the site of a WWI Canadian internment camp.

Thousands of men, and some women and children, were interned because of where they had come from, who they were. None of them were guilty of any disloyalty, yet they found themselves branded as 'enemy aliens,' stripped of what little wealth they had, and forced to do heavy labour for the profit of their jailers.

"By recalling this unfortunate episode in Canadian history, we hope to ensure that no other ethnic, religious or racial minority ever suffers state-sanctioned indignities of the kind that Ukrainians and others did during the First World War period," said Andrea Malysh, a member of the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the local co-ordinator of the event.

I interviewed Andrea to get some information on the unveiling ceremonies and some background on what happened at the camp, and why the unfortunate internees built "The Highway to Nowhere" under less than ideal conditions. It aired on Nash Holos last Sunday, but if you missed it, you can listen to it here.

The ceremonies will begin at 10:30am on Saturday, 24 October 2009, at the Edgewood Internment Camp Site Entrance, in Edgewood, British Columbia. (10 kms off of Hwy 6, 2 hours east of Vernon. )

For more information on the event and the eight WWI internment camps in BC, contact her at the local UCCLA number (250) 558-2959 or visit the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association website.

This past year, the federal government finally officially acknowledged this travesty visited on Ukrainian and other East European immigrants during the WWI era, and symbolically returned the confiscated wealth of the internees, which had never been returned to them or their families. This symbolic gesture came in the form of the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund. There's more information here.

Обійми Дощу (Obiymy Doschu, Eng: Rain's Embrace) debuts on Nash Holos

Last week I got an email from the charming Volodymyr Agafonkin, who represents a Ukrainian lyrical rock band called Обійми Дощу (Obiymy Doschu, Eng: Rain's Embrace).

The group plays very lyrical, autumnal rock music with progressive rock and neoclassical influences. They recently released their debut album "Елегія" (Elehia, Eng: Elegy) in August.

Обійми Дощу has very generously put up the tracks for free download on their website. However, I would encourage you to purchase their CD as well. By doing so, you'll find out more about this interesting and very talented group in the accompanying 10-page booklet. Most importantly, however, you'll be encouraging these incredibly talented musicians to continue creating and sharing their beautiful music.

That booklet and CD are on their way to Nash Holos, and when they arrive I'll be doing a CD of the Week feature. So make sure to stay tuned!

In the meantime, I'll be sharing a few tracks while we await the arrival of the package from Volodymyr.

Their debut track on Nash Holos was Самотні ночі (Samotni nochi Eng: Lonely nights) and aired last Sunday, October 18. Here's a video clip for you to enjoy:

Friday, October 16, 2009

Nash Holos recipe: Pumpkin Platsok

Here is the story of why historically, Ukrainian men do not like a pumpkin. It's a true story, which Judy found on a fantastic website called Travel West Ukraine. It's a well-known story that can be found in similar versions on a number of sites.

This is a very old tradition dating back to medieval times. When a Ukrainian boy wanted to marry a girl, he did not buy her a ring and he did not ask her, “Will you marry me?” on bended knee in a romantic place somewhere.

No, in Ukraine a different method was used to ask her hand in marriage. The suitor had to find two special people (a relative or friend) and he went with these people to the house of the girl he wanted to marry.

Ukrainians call these two special people Starosty or Svaty. Starosty must be a wise person and preferably with a good sense of humor because they will make a special speech to the parents of the future bride. Usually Starosty were men, but the odd time they would be women.

So, Starosty and the potential fiancé would come to the girl’s parents and gave a special speech. At the end of this speech, they would ask the parents to allow their daughter to be the wife of this young man. But, the parents usually answered, “We need to ask the opinion of our daughter.”

The girl stayed silent, and if she wanted to marry this man, she would tie a ceremonial embroidered towel over the shoulder of each of the Starosty. She would also tiesa nice shawl on the hand of the young man.

But if she doesn't want to marry him, then the Starosty got nothing and the young man received a pumpkin from the girl!

Parents who had very pretty daughters often heard from friends and neighbours: “Oh, you need to grow a big garden of pumpkins!”

The Ukrainian tradition of giving a pumpkin to the loser is almost gone in today’s times. When a modern Ukrainian boy proposes marriage to a girl, he buys her a ring as is done in the rest of the world.

But the saying “to get a pumpkin” is still very popular in Ukraine. This phrase usually means that somebody has said “no” to you in a very important business matter. Also, if Ukrainians say about some man, “He got a pumpkin from his girlfriend” it means the same as it did several centuries ago.

Eating pumpkin is a different story altogether, however! Ukrainian men like eating pumpkin just as much as women do, all the world over.

Here’s a unique recipe that comes courtesy of Ludmilla, one of the ladies who works in the kitchen at Prairie Cottage Perogies. She doesn’t have a name for it, but Judy and I decided to call it Ludmilla’s Pumpkin Platsok.

For this recipe you will need perogy dough of your choice, a pumpkin filling, oil and a frying pan. And of course a rolling pin. :-)

If you don’t have your own perogy dough recipe, here’s Judy's:

3 cups flour
1 cup hot water
1 tsp salt

Mix together until smooth, form a ball, cover in plastic and let rest for 20 min.

While it’s resting, make the pumpkin filling. In a bowl combine, contents of a 14 ounce can of pure pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling) with ¼ cup sugar, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, and ½ teaspoon each of ground nutmeg, allspice and, if desired, ginger.

Divide the dough into three. Roll out one third very thin (the thickness of a Canadian dime) in a square shape.

Spread one third of the pumpkin mixture evenly over the dough. Bring each corner over to meet in the middle. Seal the edges by tapping the dough lightly.

Add a bit of oil to a large frying pan or flat grill, about 2 tablespoons. Heat until slightly smoking
Carefully place the dough into the pan. Fry until golden brown, then flip. (You will need to use 2 egg turners or a very large flipper. ) Fry until golden brown, then slide onto a plate. Sprinkle with sugar or dust with icing sugar.

Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.

This is a great way to use up left-over perogy dough. You can also use any kind of fruit or pie filling — use your imagination and create a new family favorite!


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Zrada is a hot new band out of Winnipeg taking the Ukrainian music scene by storm with a brand new CD and tons of attitude!

As I wrote in an earlier post (here) they've had their first CD release concert in Winnipeg and have another one coming up in Edmonton next weekend.

Dobryan Tracz, the group's guitarist and "elder statesman" has promised me an interview to air on Nash Holos sometime in November along with a CD of the Week feature. So stay tuned!

In the meantime, there are samples of some recent live performances in Toronto and Winnipeg on the UkeTube channel of YouTube. Here are a a few that you’ll find there:

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Excerpts from President Yushchenko's Green Clearing Press Conference of Sept. 30, 2009 (Part 1 of 2)

Transcript of this week's political commentary on Nash Holos. Commentator: Mirko Petriw, author of the political thriller Yaroslaw's Treasure. Audio version can be heard here.

Rather than commenting on matters pertaining to Ukraine myself, today I think I will let Ukraine’s President, Victor Yushchenko do all the talking. Very recently – on September 30th, in fact – President Yushchenko held an outdoor press conference in Kyiv. I think that forever more it will become known as the Green Clearing press conference, or the “прес-конференція на зеленій галявині”. What the President said are things that needed to be spelled out, but are rarely actually stated by Ukraine’s politicians. President Yushchenko spoke like a statesman, not a politician.

For the benefit of the English speaking community I will dare to translate some salient moments from his answers.

“What can we do, so that we, in our own country, do not feel like Little Russians, like khokhly, like servants, so that we do not feel that we are sitting on the stoop of a church and praying to the 450 honorable men that should be self aware enough to do all those things that 46 million people expect?

Why do we not feel that we are masters on this land, nor feel that we in fact form the government, that we set the priorities?
For example, is it right for the nation to sit and plead that unlimited parliamentary immunity be cancelled?

That fact is an embarrassment to anyone living in the 21st century. We were not creating a caste system. We had declared that we were a free country and that all are equal before the law. So why are all not quite so equal as claimed in the Constitution, nor as desired by the nation? Why do we suffer people in politics that clearly do not share our Ukrainian values?”

Further on Yushchenko said:

“And I will speak to this also. Two thirds of my emotions, my feelings -I will address to you, dear journalists, so that you remain the guardians of those democratic values that we fought for in this country. Only through democracy does this country have any hope for independence and territorial integrity. Everything else leads to our colonization.”

And later, when asked about his chances in the next Presidential election, he said:

“I’ve said many times, that I am not interested in where Yushchenko end up. I am self-sufficient. That is not the question. Excuse me, but as a citizen, I’m not very interested in the name of the Presidential candidate. I’m only interested in one thing. What kind of a country will we have in two or three years? That is all.”

“Speaking plainly, I will win the election. I have no doubt, no doubt at all. But if I don’t, believe me it will never be a tragedy for me. […] You will evaluate this without prejudice, and you will be proud of those four years that you lived in the Ukraine that was created by President Yushchenko. I do not think that you will return to the year 2004.”

“I am convinced that you will not forget the freedom of speech that Yushchenko’s politics brought. Quietly we will begin to get used to the fact that we are a nation-state, that we are a free nation, that we have fundamental democratic rights, the right to choose.”

“You know, […] I simply know that there could have been a different path and a different direction. - With the downfall of national values, with a forgotten past, with a forgotten language, with forgotten books. I do not speak of defense matters, where believe me, I’d like to have seen people next to me that knew how to spell the word NATO. Or how to lead the country into a system of collective European security, and not in the opposite direction.”

“I will not sign the Budget prepared for 2010 that gives the Military only 8.3 billion Hryvnias. That is the Budget of the destruction of Ukraine’s armed forces. That is an insult to a soldier, to an officer and to the defense of this country. […] Today a pilot of Ukraine’s Air Force gets only 4.7hrs flying time per year. We have 250 such pilots that are supposed to defend our skies.”

When asked about the ongoing investigation of his own infamous Dioxin poisoning, he replied:

“Regarding your question about my poisoning, the three individuals that invited me, cooked the food, and served it, are citizens of Russia and live in Moscow.”

When asked about Moscow’s attempts to influence the election, Yushchenko said:

“The influence will be as strong as usual. But the results will be weak. Why? Because with every year the people that call themselves citizens of Ukraine, understand that who will be the President is an answer that is theirs to give, not anyone else. That is all.

And whom would Russia like to see as President? It is easier for me to say whom they don’t want, for all the others they would want. For that I should direct you to (Russian President) Dmytro Medvedev’s letter. It seems to me that the answer is written somewhere there between the lines.”

This again was a few excerpts from President Yushchenko’s Green Clearing press conference. He said so much more than can be squeezed into this program. Next Sunday I’ll share a little more, so make sure to tune in.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Nash Holos recipe: Prune Torte

Prunes are dried plums of various plum species. They are used in many ways in the Ukrainian kitchen. European plums are referred to as "sugar plums" and are usually sold as dried fruit. Fresh plums marketed as "prunes" have an oval shape and a more easily removed pit. The dried fruit is wrinkly in texture, and chewy.

Prune juice is made by softening prunes through steaming and then putting them through a pulper to create a watery puree. Prunes and prune juice contain significant amounts of dietary fiber and a natural laxative, and are thus common home remedies for constipation. (Faster results are obtained by heating the prune juice.) Prunes also have high antioxidant content.

In years past, sweets made with prunes and plums were common in Ukrainian Canadian homes, especially for wedding showers and Christmas.

This outstanding torte is low in fat but high in fibre and flavour … it only tastes rich and decadent! It’s a family favourite of Judy’s, handed down generations. It’s easy to make and freezes well.

Prune Torte

2 cups flour
2 ½ cups sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
1 ½ tsp ground cloves
3 large eggs, beaten
1 cup oil
1 cup buttermilk
1 ½ tsp soda
1 ½ cup prunes

Place prunes in a saucepan and add just enough water to cover. Cook over medium heat until softened (4-5 minutes).

Sift dry ingredients together; add oil and beaten eggs. Mix thoroughly.

Mix ½ teaspoon soda into the buttermilk, and add to the batter. Add softened prunes.

Pour batter into two 9 inch round layer cake pans or three 8-inch pans lined with parchment paper.

Bake at 350ºF for 45 minutes or until tester inserted into cake comes out dry. (Be sure not to insert it into a prune.) Cake should be a light golden colour.

Fill and ice with your favorite icing (chocolate is nice) or a lemon or rum glaze. For an even more intense fruit flavour, fill with plum butter or a thick plum jam.


Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Kalyna in Canada

One of the songs on last Sunday's broadcast of Nash Holos was Ой, ясна-красна в лузі калина which translates into something like a beautiful bright kalyna tree in the forest.

Certainly at this time of year, the leaves are bright and vividly coloured ... as you can see in these beautiful photos taken by Fr. Bruce Power of the kalyna tree on the patio of his home in Surrey, BC.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Ukrainian Canadian group Zrada releases first CD

The contemporary Ukrainian Canadian group Zrada was formed in Winnipeg in 2005 and recently released its first CD.

Zrada fuses together a variety of contemporary genres (punk rock, reggae, ska) with the traditional sounds of traditonal folk music of Ukraine and other parts of eastern Europe.

Not to take away from them, but my first impression was that they reminded me of The Ukrainians of Leeds, England and other ethno-fusion groups like Mandry of Ukraine and Gogol Bordello of the United States.

These are no doubt influences. But they have a distinct sound all their own, which becomes more apparent after listening to the CD a second and third time. It likely is also apparent if you can hear them live!

Last month they performed at Toronto's Ukrainian Bloor Street Festival and with Haydamaky in Winnipeg. Those fortunate enough to be living in Winnipeg and Edmonton will have the opportunity to see them perform live this coming weekend and again later this month.

In Winnipeg: Friday, October 9 at the West End Cultural Centre at 8:15 pm (doors open at 7:30). Tickets are $15 available at Oseredok, WECC and Zrada.

In Edmonton: Friday, October 23 at Walkabout Pub at 9 pm. For ticket details contact the Ukrainian Students Society at the University of Alberta.

Listeners of Nash Holos will be hearing much more of Zrada in the coming weeks. In the meantime, you can find out more about them at their website.

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