September is one of my favorite months. Summer is not over and the holiday season hasn’t begun. The standout part of September is when our local church holds their Russian Days Festival.
Sharing traditions, especially food is a bonding force that reminds us that we come from somewhere. Food is one of the most persistent aspects of cultural traditions. Food evokes a pang of nostalgia. A certain smell coming from a kitchen can take you back to a particular moment in time. Returning to something familiar is a blessing and comforting. Inheriting our family’s culture makes us active participants in tradition.
I’m a huge fan of this particular festival. Russian tradition is very similar to my own Ukrainian heritage. At this festival you can find an abundance of food including halupkis, pierogies and kiffles. While here, you can also explore treasures from Russia. Russian nesting dolls and Ukrainian eggs are on display. These are all reminders of family and community.
I was fortunate enough to experience the Russian Food Day Festival with family. Privileged to sit among the elite guru cooks of the family, I wasn’t expecting what happened next. The food arrived at our table and the inspecting began. The gurus were comparing notes. First the kiffles fell under scrutiny. Were their kiffles rolled better? Were their kiffles flakier?
We all have our own traditions in the kitchen. We are accustomed to food being prepared a certain way. For example, our version of haluski is made with noodles. The haluski, we tried at the festival was foreign to us. This particular recipe used dumplings, our family uses noodles, same thing only different.
The potato pancakes brought to mind a recipe for a Lithuanian dish called Babka. Grateful that my gurus were generous enough to pass the recipe on, I have learned to make Babka! Tradition lives on through food.
Keep in mind different regions have different recipes for the same dishes. People have been migrating throughout history for reasons including freedom, family security and to find food. My own grandparents emigrated to the United States. Looking for a better life they brought with them their traditions. Historically, cooking methods, seasonings and foods available in a new location resulted in the slight shift in customs.
In conclusion, visiting festivals and experiencing food that we normally wouldn’t consider is a fun learning experience. Additionally, those not familiar with a particular culture are able to catch a glimpse into another persons world.
Communities come together at festivals. Don’t miss out on the opportunity the next time you hear about one in your neighborhood. Don’t forget to pick up a keepsake!