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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Ukrainian cuisine: Exploring traditional recipes and cookery from 1929

Оn Sunday May 22 Ukrainian Food Flair co-host, Natalia Buchok of Oakville, Ontario made her radio debut on Nash Holos Ukrainian Roots Radio!

A writer who speaks fluent Ukrainian, Natalia has embarked on an ambitious journey, taking Nash Holos listeners on a delicious trip down memory lane as she explores a fascinating piece of Ukrainian culinary history.

The roadmap for this trip comes via the Ukrainian to English translation project of a cookbook dating back to 1929. Entitled Універсальна Галицька Кухня (Universal'na Halytskia Kukhnia), it tramslates into English as Galician Kitchen.

We came across this book through Oleh Iwanusiw, a member of an online writing group that Natalia and I belong to.

Oleh has an acquaintance in Lviv, Ivan Lutchuk, who happens to be the grandson of Olha Senatovych, the book's author. Ivan also happens to actually have in his possession the very hand-written cookbook his grandmother compiled!

Written in the beautiful Galician Ukrainian vernacular of that time, it has traditional recipes for everything from fish dishes to tortes, and even instructions on how to keep your kitchen vermin-free!

Having learned about this incredible treasure, our writer's group decided it was just too wonderful not to share. So with Oleh's and Ivan's permission, Natalka is doing the Ukrainian to English translation, and in the process sharing her culinary discoveries with Nash Holos listeners.

Very little is actually known about the author, however. From photos Ivan sent us, we do know Olha was beautiful and fashionable. She obviously came from an upper or upper middle class family, in Lviv, western Ukraine. 

She lived for a while in Vienna, and was an artist at a time when women were just being officially admitted into the great art schools of the West, such as the Academy Julian and the Ecole des Beaux Arts in France.

And, based on her book, she was no doubt an adventurous cook and highly competent homemaker!

While the 1920s were a time of political instability and upheaval in western Ukraine, they were nonetheless a heady time for kitchens. New inventions and innovations in kitchen design swept Europe (particularly Germany and Austria) and soon made their way to North America.

Presumably Olha had a modern kitchen. It was probably painted Venetian green or Pale Organza. She likely had built in wood cabinets that sat flat on the floor instead of on legs, with a work counter, aluminum drawers with oak bins for storing flour (oak repels meal-worms), and a garbage drawer for scraps.

For appliances, she might have had a Kitchen Aid mixer (they were around by then) and a gas burning stove, although probably without a thermostat on the oven (she doesn't give any temperatures in her recipes). Although refrigerators had already been invented, Olha likely was still using an icebox.

The recipes in her cookbook are quite sophisticated. Many clearly reflect the influence of Vienna, the capital of the Austro Hungarian Empire which had ruled western Ukraine prior to the end of WWI. The Austrian nobility routinely brought in French and Italian chefs to cook for their banquets and celebrations. So the luxury and festive style of the dishes prepared by these foreign chefs soon began to influence Ukrainian dishes - modern variations of which are prepared in Ukrainian homes today.

Natalia will be sharing many of those recipes on Ukrainian Food Flair every other Sunday on Nash Holos Ukrainian Roots Radio. So make sure to join her on her exciting culinary journey!


Olehwi said...

OK, . . . looks like the show is "on the road". Good luck.

Pawlina said...

Thanks, Oleh! And thanks for making this all possible. :-)

Anonymous said...

A gas stove in Lviv? Are you sure it was not a regular wood stove?
Most people in Lviv lived in apartments.
I remember my grandmother saying they used to test the heat of the oven by sticking their hand in!

Pawlina said...

By the 1920s gas stoves were in existence although only the very well off had access to or could afford them. (Or likely even knew about them.)

Judging from the photos, Olha was of the upper classes, so it's possible she may have had one. OTOH maybe she had one like your grandmother's. We really have no idea.

Olha didn't give any details about stoves, fridges and the like in her book. If you listen to Ukrainian Food Flair you will hear Natalia mention this from time to time.

Our goal is to preserve (in English translation) what Olha did leave behind... namely her recipes, tips and memories of a bygone era.

The rest we can only speculate on. And that can be fun!

Anonymous said...

Are any of Natalia's radio spots on this cookbook archieved on the web? I would love to hear them.

Pawlina said...

Yes they are.

The Ukrainian Food Flair spots are archived separately for 2 weeks at the Nash Holos website on the Features page.

The show podcasts for the past 4 editions (local and int'l) are on the Playlist page and the International edition is archived for about 6 months on the Nash Holos page at the PCJ Media website.

Natalia hosts Ukrainian Food Flair every other week, alternating with NH veteran, Sylvia Molnar of Vancouver.

Thanks for the comment and I hope you'll tune in to the show!

Anonymous said...

Thanks. I listened via the web. great show.
Fior the dill mayonese, do all the ingredients have to be room temp. before mixing or not?

Sylvia Molnar said...

Good question!

The answer in this case is no, it is not necessary to bring any of the ingredients to room temperature.

If a recipe calls for raw eggs, for example, usually you would bring them to room temperature. And in most cases it would say so in the instructions.

This blender dill mayo recipe is very basic, and extremely quick easy to make.

I'd love to know how it turns out for you. So if you try it, please let us know the results!

TimL said...

Very interesting.
My partner Alex and I are creating a web portal about Lviv and would love to support the project in some way if possible.

We have been searching for info on Galician cuisine and it's difficult to find.

We should launch in early October.

Can you put us in touch with the Natalia Buchok?

Tim Louzonis,

Pawlina said...

Thanks for your comment, Tim, and your interest!

Congratulations on developing a web portal for Lviv. It sounds like a wonderful project!

Thanks also for your kind offer to help publicize ours.

Please check your email for my reply to your enquiry.

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