"All is quiet in my house, nothing stirs...not even a mouse" only the quiet hum of the aquarium filter can be heard...I am the only one awake...playing with the little "Ded Maroz" (Father Frost) under our New Year's "yolachka" (Christmas Tree)trying to conceal the excitement bubbling out of my 40 pound body for the night ahead. It's the only night when even children are allowed to stay up with the adults and enjoy the festivities of the coming year. It's December 31st 1988 on a usually snowy day in my homeland...Russia. The streets are bustling with people getting last minute treats for their elaborate New Year's Eve feasts...traffic roars down busy streets as people rush home for their naps. That is precisely what was happening at my house. All the adults were fast asleep getting their much needed sleep in preparation for a night filled with laughter, drinking and celebration. Much like our dinners New Year's eve has become a marathon of food and drink. Memories, tales and shots are shared much into the early mornings...until all the crumbs from the dining room tables are cleared and replaced with steaming cups of tea and coffee and plates of freshly made omelettes with butter. After a 12 hour marathon the survivors return to their homes to freshen themselves up for Day 2 of celebration: New Year's Eve; a repeat of Day 1...more memories, more tales, more food, more vodka.
In Russia New Year's Eve is as big as Christmas is in the states. Christmas and God Forbid, Hannakuh were not to be found on any calander. Instead, New Year's Eve was lavishously celebrated. Houses displayed their sparkling and tinsle-wrapped yolachka's, our version of Christmas Trees, in their windows proudly. Everyone gives each other presents and goes to see New Year's Eve plays featuring our non-controversial version of Santa Claus, Ded Maroz or Father Frost and his usually much younger sexy, scantilly clad assistant "Snegurachka".
I still remember our beautiful "yolachka". A real tree, that still smelled of pine cones and frost. We had the most gorgeous ornaments that were hand-made and each one had its own personality. My dad and I would decorate the tree together, my favorite part was spreading the cotton "snow" under the tree bottom. We laid "Ded Maroz" and "Snegurachka" figurines into the "snow" along with tinsle, toy trains, presents and all the other ornaments that never made it onto the tree. Countless hours were spent playing under that tree, wondering which presents were for me, dreading the moment we would have to put the tree away.
My mom would race around putting her last touches on her lipstick and her napoleaon cake. I would run right behind her, reluctant to miss any of the New Year's preparation. My dad, always the last to wake up from his nap, would walk around lazly trying to find his missing tie, annoying my mother with his constant requests to help him find yet another mysteriously missing article of clothing.
Somehow at the end of the night everything settled down...a decadant spread of appetizers, meats and desserts awaited us. A feast to fuel the busy night ahead of games, skits, songs and dancing. A night that Russians feel united in their love for celebration and food; for laughter and stories; for a good tale over a cold shot.
As an adult, I try and recreate that magic that I felt as a kid on New Year's Eve. But alas, that tingle in the stomach is unique to a child's soul and cannot be re-created but instead will hopefully be reincarnated...a wish for my own future children...a hope that they will enjoy this amazing holiday as I once did...and that my little ones will tail me around the house as I crazily rush around putting the finishing touches on my lipstick and desserts. In the meantime, I will go and drink my cold shot and laugh over memories with my friends.
Years ago, I followed my dreams and went to culinary school. I went to culinary school to continue the dream that my mother and I always shared: to open up a deli or cafe somewhere and call it our own. Whether that cafe will ever open is still up in the air...but my cooking and my love for food I owe to my mother...and in a way this blog is dedicated to her...I only hope that I can inspire other women with this blog the way my mother inspired me...With her love for food passed onto me, I quickly became a food snob after culinary school. Today, a house, a husband' (and his stomach),and an up and coming business keeps me busy enough without all my gourmet concoctions! But, no matter how busy I am, I still go to my kitchen and cook to retain my sanity. Prehaps this is a way I connect to my mother...but cooking is the only thing that truely soothes my soul. My recent transformation has led me to belive that sometimes you just have to Keep It Simple Stupid...and Cook!
I will not eat oysters. I want my food dead - not sick, not wounded - dead. ~Woody Allen
Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside. ~Mark Twain
Great food is like great sex. The more you have the more you want. ~Gael Greene
Tell me what you eat, I'll tell you who you are. ~Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
And, of course, the funniest food of all, kumquats. ~George Carlin
Avoid fruit and nuts. You are what you eat. ~Jim Davis
The trouble with eating Italian food is that five or six days later you're hungry again. ~George Miller
Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all. ~Harriet van Horne
Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon. ~Doug Larson
I didn't fight my way to the top of the food chain to be a vegetarian. ~Anonymous
But those aren't the flavors. That'd make too much sense. Apple and pear, according to Dr. Phil, are body types the bars are made for. Hey, I've got some advice. If you look like an apple or a pear, eat an apple or a pear! [On Dr. Phil's energy bars. ~Lewis Black