Saturday, April 18, 2009

It's Easter! (go look for eggs!)

What?! But it was LAST week!

For you, maybe. But for millions of Eastern Christians, Easter is only THIS Sunday.

Easter is the only Christian holiday that has no fixed date, and because its timing depends on calculations (full moon, first day of spring, and other calendar considerations), a few other holidays have a variable schedule. But but not on their own! Lent begins 40 days before Easter. Pentecost happens 50 days after.

And those facts are the same whether you're in the Eastern Church or in a Western denomination, that is, Catholic or Protestant.

Traditionally, Russian Christians are for the vast majority Eastern Orthodox, like the Greeks, the Bulgarians, the Armenians, the Serbs.

How do we celebrate Easter? Pretty much like everyone: Church, food, and family.

Having been raised in an educated family, I know more than my share about the formal aspects of the religious rites, but I will refer you to the real experts in the subject if you want to learn more. The Orthodox Church of America maintains a great number of sites with a variety of articles, links, and images. Most individual parishes have their schedules on the web today, and you can catch up with folks at home if you're traveling to the ends of the universe.

The family aspect of holidays, well, it's universal. There's the grandmother, the kids, the mother and father, the relatives who make phone calls (or forget to). There's cheer and strife.

The food, well, that's something else.

I don't take the time to cook ethnic dishes very often anymore. Modern life doesn't give you the leisure to spend a whole day preparing a one-pot dish and baking bread, nor will your family agree to eat the same meal several times in a row, even if you disguise it with interesting sides and desserts.

So ethnic dishes are relegated to special occasions.

Like Easter.

Kulich, or Easter Bread, a rich, yeast bread, full of good stuff like butter and sugar, vanilla, almonds, raisins, cardamom, takes three risings and a lot of kneading. It doesn't lend itself to modernization. Forget transposing the recipe to bread machines. Oh yes, I've tried. It's too rich, too dense for the poor appliances to handle it.

No, you have to mix it and knead it by hand. You have to get your hands messy. You have to sprinkle flour all over your kitchen.

Three risings, with mixing in ingredients after each one, that takes hours. And baking this kind of bread, that takes another hour and a half. So you see why I don't do it more than once a year.

But when they come out... Ah, the pride.

The other dish in demand is Paskha, or Syrnaya Paskha, Cheese Paskha, is made from fresh farmer's cheese and, you guessed, more butter, eggs, and sugar. It's like cheesecake, but smoother and meltier. Oh, and I found a recipe here, with pictures, that will give you an idea of what I was doing yesterday. One comment though: I'd rather skip making Paskha than using cottage cheese. It's much too watery, and too bland. It has to be farmer's cheese.

Guess what breakfast was this morning? Tea or coffee, and Kulich with Paskha.

Decadent? For sure! But you have to remember, if you really follow the tradition, then you haven't been eating any meat or dairy products for 40 days. None. At all. No milk, cheese, yoghurt, butter, no beef, chicken, pork. Vegetables and fish and oil. But if you think it makes for a boring diet, you're wrong! Don't forget that lobster and shrimp are "fish," too! And caviar, and wine is made from grapes, and sauces don't have to be cream-based, and spices are most often seeds or flowers.

Umm... I'm getting hungry...

But I confess, I'm not so hard-core. Not like my Mom used to be. I haven't forgotten, though, and I'm still capable of baking all the traditional dishes.

It has to count for something.

I haven't forgotten that you came here for the Big Contest! So go look for the Contest Egg on my site for a chance at the basket, and post a comment on this blog to be entered in a drawing (at the end of the month) to win a $5 gift certificate to The Wild Rose Press -- and remember that the Rosettes are on sale until the end of April!

And the next stop in the blog hunt will be: Ashley Ladd will post her contribution tomorrow!

Happy Reading!


Karen H in NC said...

Hi Masha,

I don't see the next link in the blog train posted at your blogspot yet. When will that be available?

SFWriterMasha said...


Thank you for the heads-up! I knew I was forgetting something! It's there now! But I don't think Ashley is ready for you yet...

Skhye said...

Well, you know I love the info. But I'm eating carrots and peanutbutter on my diet... :( You would have to talk about food!

Oh, I'm almost written THE END with my werewolf space opera! Just 18 more pages. *Type. Type. Type.*

Hywela Lyn said...

Fascinating post Masha - it's so interesting to read about different customs and traditions. I love the sound of that Easter bread - and I just the 'Recipe or Romance' cookbook from Linda, so I'm going to have even less time for writing LOL.

MarthaE said...

Hello Masha - thanks for sharing such interesting info! The food sounds delicious! Wonder if I could get my DH, who is our cook, to make the Kulich! So - a Happy Easter today to the Eastern Christians!!

Judy said...

I really enjoyed your post Masha!!Very informative about things I did not know. I enjoy finding out about all the different traditions from our country and other countries.

Pam P said...

I love Easter Bread, and if no one bakes their own, we have a great Italian bakery in town that makes it every Easter.

SFWriterMasha said...

My Easter Bread came out quite well this year. And everybody has been enjoying the cheese Paskha. I even went to the trouble to make some sugar-free for me so I can can have as much of it as anyone else. Sure, there's the butter content, but what I have to watch is the sugar.

I was considering translating my own recipes, but I don't have one properly prepared recipe for either dessert! I use several truncated ones my mother sent me over the years... She always forgot some detail!

blessedheart said...

Great blog! You made me hungry...LOL!

I hope your Easter was filled with joy and blessings!

God Bless,
Rhonda :-)