February 2013: Eastern European Night

Last night’s potluck dinner brought together some traditional Eastern European favorites, including 2 types of goulash with a variety of meats, veggies, herbs and spices, buckwheat kasha with butter, cool crispy sauerkraut, freshly-roasted and fermented red beet and sour cream salad, hardboiled eggs stuffed with dill-mayonnaise yolks topped with salmon roe, rice pudding of raw milk and cultured cream, chilled homemade rhubarb-and-raw-honey tea, and of course some vodka!    We all enjoyed dining in good company to the sounds of some playful retro Russian music.  Then everyone took turns sharing anecdotes about Eastern European culinary traditions.


We learned that the official composition of “Eastern Europe” depends on whose definition you use, the UN’s the CIA’s, or the countries’ themselves!  We learned that there are 3 major cultural influences in Eastern Europe:  Islamic, Eastern Orthodox, and Roman Catholic.  We learned that cabbage, whose wild ancestor is originally from the Mediterranean, is common to all Eastern European nations, due to its preference for growing in cooler climates, its high vitamin C content, and its versatility.  Several of us spoke about how buckwheat figures prominently in traditional Russian diets, and one Russian guest taught us all about kasha.   Aaron Zober contributed a recipe for buckwheat kasha, courtesy of Stanley Fishman, author of Tender Grassfed Meat.


We even had a thoughtful discussion comparing our modern American diet to the traditional Eastern European diet.  Our Russian guest explained that even though Russians ate plenty of meats, roots, buckwheat, dairy, and fermented foods and beverages, and even though the babushkas (grandmas) were known for making everyone “eat, eat, and eat some more,” no one ever got fat.  Typical urban families in Russia supported their diets with fresh homegrown produce from their own gardens cultivated at their family dachas or country cottages.  Mothers and babushkas always used fresh or fermented produce for preparing meals, whether from their own gardens or local farmers markets.  The food was always nutritious and homemade from scratch, and the people were healthy.  But now, over the years of continued urbanization, expansion of industrial agriculture, and the growth of the processed food industry, Eastern Europeans are slowly seeing a degradation of their traditional diets and increasing obesity and other related modern health problems. 


To sum it up, even though we did not have a scheduled speaker for the evening, our group was able to share information and learn from each other at yet another successful potluck dinner meeting.


Don’t forget to check our Meeting Schedule regularly for updates.  In March we’ll enjoy another potluck dinner of traditional foods, and learn all about biodynamic composting with Jack MacAndrew.


Have a great month!


Your Chapter Leader,


~ Karen

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