By: Kathy, NSLI-Y Russia, Academic Year 2011-2012
Most Russian families gather with their friends and relatives for a trip to the dacha, a country house which provides a perfect retreat away from city life and work. I was lucky enough to spend the weekend at my host family’s dacha, where we planted potatoes, strolled through the forest, and relaxed by the banya (Russian styled spa).
A huge part of the dacha experience was the meals I shared with my host family. Each time we gathered around the dining table, we sat for at least two hours, talking about life and sharing stories. I particularly remember the stories about life in the former Soviet Union. My host mother told us that she grew up in a communal apartment, in which two families shared one bedroom. In addition to that, they shared one kitchen between all six families in the apartment building. In that tiny space, the women from each family bonded and cooked every meal.
Even today, the kitchen remains the heart of the Russian home; my host mother and relatives devote days to preparing delicious, healthy meals. My host mother truly believes that great care should be taken with food, because offering food is a sign of affection and love. As they introduced me to various traditional Russian dishes such as borscht (beet soup), blini (crepes) and oladi (pancakes), I contributed by introducing them to sushi. Of course, when I made sushi for them each month, I had to adjust the recipe to suit the Russian palate, which essentially meant using more cream cheese, yum!