My ‘Food Spark’

14 02 2010

Welcome to Health Food Junkies. This first post will pay homage to the women that gave me my ‘Food Spark’. Did you see the PBS special with Alan Alda called the ‘Human Spark’? It was a three part series that explored why and how we are different and unique from our primitive ancestors. It asks what the ‘Human Spark’ was that enabled us to displace Neanderthals and evolve to the creative and innovative human species we are today. I refer to an interest in food and health a ‘Food Spark’. I think mine comes from the remarkable women in my life, my mother and grandmothers. As kids our family kitchens were a place of gathering, tradition and creativity. Of course my long time yoga practice has a lot to do with my quest for healthful living.

I didn’t always keep the Food Spark alive. There were the university days when cheap and simple meals ruled like oatmeal, pasta and stir-fries. I did experiment with home favorites like Hungarian Spaghetti though (a sauce of butter, sour creme and ketchup, mmmm). When I ventured out to the ‘real world’ the spark burned brighter. I don’t enjoy eating out for lunch everyday so I made my own lunches and over a decade developed a pretty good repertoire of healthful brown bag lunches. Today I enjoy developing a menu and entertaining with friends and family experimenting with recipes to make them healthful.

These past holidays were spent as they normally are, helping my mom make perogies, cabbage rolls and the rest of the Ukrainian Christmas Eve dinner. This year we documented the event so I could thoroughly learn an important tradition in my family. My mom has been making Christmas Eve dinner since before my Baba passed away in 2001. There is nothing like it. What is most amazing is that I can still taste the difference between my mom’s perogies and my Baba’s. Anyhow, I present to you a tour through the Kerekes Family Christmas Eve dinner. Enjoy.

Ukrainian Christmas Eve Dinner (Sviat Vechir): The meaning and tradition behind this dinner is to commemorate Christ’s birth. The evening before Rizdvo, Sviat Vechir, a ritual meal is prepared with twelve meatless dishes. My family prepares six of them religiously, the other parts of the meal include things like a fish dish, bread and pickled herring. Dinner is served over a table decorated with wheat stalks. When Christmas Eve comes, you are glad you lived healthfully the rest of the year because it is all worth it.

The Essentials:

Kutya, wheat, honey and poppy seed like porridge. Mash boiled poppy seeds in sugar and mixed with boiled pearl wheat and honey. It is the first dish of dinner.

Borshch a beet soup that many people are familiar with. Ready to eat with a touch of sour creme!

Holubtsi or better known as cabbage rolls. The rice and onion filling stuffed into softened cabbage and all ready for baking with tomato sauce.

Pyrohy a labor of love, known as perogies. From dough, rolled and cut out, just enough filling, the right folding and pinching technique and ready for the boiling water.

Mushroom Gravy, mushrooms, mushrooms and more mushrooms and oh yeah creme.

Salad, an old school one my Baba and mom have always made. Iceberg lettuce, diced tomato, cucumber and celery and sliced radish. Dressing of mashed scallions with sugar, light oil and white vinegar.

I’ll keep up my healthful ways until next year (well, until Easter when the perogies and cabbage rolls make another appearance 🙂




One response

26 02 2010

Congrats on the blog, Nat!! Just what I need to get me off my Cheezies addiction! xo

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