Friday, 25 October 2013

Orthodox Celebrations: A Pile of Pancakes

Nine pm was the time children went to bed when I was little. My dad would normally just come home and mum would hang out with him. Babushka went to her room, or rather our room, as we all lived in a one bedroom flat: mum, dad, babushka and I. Her and I shared a bedroom. She wanted to give my parents some space.

And this is when I would pounce on her: "Babushka, please tell me about the village". I was so curious about the old times. Things changed so much since then...

Church holidays played a big role in the lives of the village folk. Shrove Tuesday was one of them. Except in Russia and Ukraine we do it for a whole week! Orthodox Lent is no joke. One effectively becomes vegan for 40 days. Orthodox Christians are only allowed to eat fish on a handful of days throughout the Lent, otherwise it's no dairy, no meat and no fish. So a week before that, called Maslenitsa was a big celebration. 

From what I understand each day of the Maslenitsa week was roughly focused on a particular activity. One one of the days, the in-laws from the husband's side of the family would come and visit. Old babushkas came carrying sweeties for the kids, wrapped in their handkerchiefs. On another day - the relatives from the mother's side. The families were huge and all of them needed feeding. 

My great grandmother would wake up early. By the time the kids were up she would make a huge pile of pancakes for the guests. Have you tried making pancakes recently? Twenty-odd pancakes would only make a pile an inch high. Imagine how many she needed to do to have one 15-20 inches high?

With 10 children of her own, babushka's mum had to feed an army! And so she did. A samovar was puffing on the table, dozens and dozens of pancakes were eaten with mushrooms, red caviar, cabbage, cottage cheese, honey and preserves. For a whole week!

I bet she was ready for Lent to start! 

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